Archive | September 28th, 2013

No ‘military measures’ in Syria draft resolution – Lavrov

NOVANEWS

A Syria resolution drafted by Russia and the US and submitted to the UN Security Council does not suggest immediate military action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, Russia’s FM Lavrov said. A vote on the measure could take place Friday evening.

The Council has begun consultations on the draft and may vote on the resolution on Friday evening, as soon as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons makes its own decision on the submitted draft, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov might slightly extend his visit to New York to take part in the vote, and his counterparts from the Security Council member states are considering similar moves, Churkin added.

The resolution which was submitted to the UN Security Council is fully in line with the Geneva framework on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, Sergey Lavrov told the press earlier on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s 68th session.

“There will be no enforcement in line with Chapter 7,” he emphasized.

The draft resolution backs the agreement reached in Geneva regarding Syria’s commitment to place its chemical weapons stockpile under international control. If there is any violation by any party – as the resolution  also calls on the opposition to assist in the disarmament process – the Security Council will convene again and will be ready to take enforcement measures in line with Chapter 7, Lavrov said.

“We have finalized the draft which will be submitted at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague any minute now,” Lavrov said in a short statement on Thursday evening. “We have also agreed on a US-Russian draft resolution which will be submitted to the Security Council later tonight.”

The draft resolution emphasizes the need to rely on the professionalism of the OPCW experts and calls on the UN Secretary General to assist the experts in the implementation of the reached agreements. It further outlines the obligations the Syrian side should fulfill as a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the party who invited the international  personnel to take control of and ultimately  destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles, Lavrov said.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door consultation on the Syria draft resolution on Thursday evening, representatives of the French UN mission told Reuters.

US envoy to the UN Samantha Power also confirmed an agreement with Russia has been reached, elaborating further that the draft resolution is “legally obligating Syria to give up chemical weapons they used on their people.”

“The draft UNSC Resolution establishes that Syria’s use of chemical weapons is threat to international peace and security and creates a new norm against the use of CW,” she wrote via Twitter.

Although all 15 members of the council will see and discuss the draft on Thursday evening, a vote on the measure is not expected immediately.

“We have a shared sense that in both the Security Council and the OPCW these drafts will be met positively, and we expect that the votes on these important decisions will take place in the nearest future, first in Hague and then in the Security Council,” Lavrov said.

Posted in Russia, SyriaComments Off on No ‘military measures’ in Syria draft resolution – Lavrov

ALTERNATIVE SATURDAY CARTOONS

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Last minute addition. Thank you Beulahman.

But let’s start off with a song by one of my favourites, Jon Bon Jovi performing with Iranian singing star Don Was, that great song, “Stand by Me”. More pertinent and timely a song I cannot think of after this week’s explosive advances in Middle Eastern politics. The power of music. Personally, I think Jon would be a much better communicator than Kerry and reach more people too! He is also much easier on the eyes and isn’t a closet Chosenite!

*

Is it any surprise that this week there is a surplus of political cartoons slamming Putin as a fool, jerk, etc. Fortunately, I found a few that said otherwise.
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 The simple beauty of the humble potato bug.
Call me sick, but I LOVE this one!
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 “Michelle, where’s my Nobel Peace Prize?”
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 Autumn is here! I’m so excited!
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Anti Iranian cartoon. Who had the last laugh here?
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 Amschell Rothschild exiting his crypt cellar.
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 Political speech
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Saved the best for last! Molly Ringwald wasn’t much of an actress, (as much fun as The Breakfast Club was) but this is priceless.

Open predictions of Bibi’s UN speech on Monday. (Courtesy of Mondoweiss)

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Obama Declares November National Muslim Appreciation Month

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Obama announces Muslim appreciation month for November

President Obama announcing the month of November to officially be ‘National Muslim Appreciation Month’.

Washington, DC — President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce that he is declaring the month of November ‘National Muslim Appreciation Month’.

“The Muslim community deserves our full acceptance and respect,” Obama told reporters. “We have killed millions of Muslims overseas since the September 11th attacks. They are not all bad. In fact most of them are good. So from now on, November will be a month to celebrate the Muslim community, the Sunnah and the Quran.

Khaled Matei who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Freedom and Justice Party told CNN he is pleased with Obama and his actions. “I spoke with President Obama by telephone yesterday and personally thanked him for what he is doing for the Muslim community,” Matei said. “This is definitely a step in the right direction I explained to him. Praise Allah.”

Obama informed reporters about his future plans for helping Muslims around the world. “I will be working with Congress in making it easier for Muslims to earn a Green Card and achieve American citizenship,” Obama said. “Currently as it stands, obtaining a Visa or Green Card for a Muslim is very difficult. There are too many background checks in place and I plan to fix that.” Obama continued, “Muslims are hardworking people who are just looking to live the American Dream like the rest of us. Mr. Matei of the Muslim Brotherhood assured me they want to come to this country to help us, not harm us.”

Obama finished the press conference by explaining to reporters how happy he is with America. “Folks, there is no way we could have had a ‘National Muslim Appreciation Month’ 20 years ago. That really says a lot about the growth and progress of this great country.”

‘National Muslim Appreciation Month’ begins November 1st and will end at midnight on November 30th. For any questions or comments please contact the 24-hour National Muslim Appreciation Hotline at (785) 273-0325.

– See more at: http://nationalreport.net/obama-declares-november-national-muslim-appreciation-month/#sthash.avUwxw9z.dpuf

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Me, Gilad Atzmon and the ‘Truth’

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Introduction by Gilad Atzmon: Roy Bard is a known figure within Britain’s far left, anti-war and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. He is a member of the Indymedia UK collective, a leading British anti-capitalist media outlet. I first encountered Bard five years ago.  At the time the site was subjected to an international Jewish ‘anti’-Zionist campaign: a cabal of ethnic activists demanded that Indymedia deleted my articles.  Being a principled man, Bard didn’t bow to their pressure. Bard has been subjected to a malicious slanderous campaign ever since.
The article below is about sadness – if the personal is political, as some progressives insist, this article is an intimate insight into the medium in which such a transition takes place. It reveals the measures of brutality and intolerance that are unfortunately intrinsic to the Jewish Left. I was really moved when I read this article.

 

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/

By Freethepeeps aka Roy Bard

Roy Bard and Gilad Atzmon – London 25/9/13

“Were you tortured by your own thirst
In those pleasures that you seek
That made you Tom the curious
That makes you James the weak?”
Rodriguez (Searching for Sugarman)- Crucify Your Mind

Me:

I was born in Johannesburg, Apartheid South Africa in 1960. My mom was a trainee nurse and she met my dad while he was recovering from an accident in which he had lost a leg. She was 19, him 28 (I think). Before he left the hospital she was pregnant – with me. They tried to build a life together but it didn’t work out. When I was two and a half, he took a car out and put a hosepipe from the exhaust to the window. An aunt tells me she talked him out of taking me with him. It would have saved me much pain if she hadn’t – conversely it would have caused others even more pain. Life is so complicated.

My dad’s suicide led to me being put into the care system and being moved from pillar to post until shortly before I was 5 when I was adopted by a dysfunctional couple, as a substitute for the children they thought they couldn’t have. By this time, I was a very disturbed little boy and my adoptive father, who was an immigrant from the UK, thought he could beat the disturbance out of me. My mother egged him on – and I learnt to dislike her even more than I hated him…

The more he beat me, the more disturbed I became,
The more disturbed I became, the more he beat me
– how’s that for a vicious circle?

Here are two defining moments that spring out from the time I spent with them. (By the time I was 11 I was mainly back in institutions, and back to moving from pillar to post).

When I was around 8 or 9 I had cause to go to our maid’s room, which was about 15 yards from the adoptive folks’ very comfortable and large suburban house outside of Durban. Her room was cramped, and blackened by candle smoke because she didn’t have electricity – it was furnished with cheap furniture and very little of it. I asked my adoptive Mother why our maid lived in such terrible conditions, and she replied:

“They have different needs to us.”

Even at that age I knew that was a blatant lie and thus I learned to question what was going on around me and came to an understanding that none of us should be treated as a lesser being, nor judged, nor subjected to abuse and poverty or even death because of who brought us into this world ………. Perhaps because of my own disturbance I was unable to muster the supremacist ego of the racists around me – and I was further marginalised for not being one of them…… It is one of the greatest tragedies of my life, that my birth brother, from whom I was separated in my toddler-hood, and only found again a quarter of a century later, did become one of them, and still is. I love him so dearly – but our political differences prevent us from enjoying each other.

A year or so later I had done something else ‘naughty’ and my father was punching and kicking me around my room.

Him: “What are you?”
Me: “I don’t know.” (He beats me for not knowing).
Him: “You’re a yellow liver bellied snake.” (He beats me for being this).
Him: “What are you?”
Me: “I’m a yellow liver bellied snake.”* (He beats me worse than before)…
Him: “No child of mine ever talks about themselves like that…”
(*This is why I don’t believe torture can ever do any good whatsoever)

This may help those of you who know me to understand more about the tortured, disturbed, sometimes shy, sometimes outrageous, difficult individual that I have grown to be. It may help you understand why I have problems forming attachments, building relationships, accepting authority and believing that the world is an okay place….. why I have spent the last decade mired in a deep depression from which I am still struggling (so far without any success whatsoever) to emerge.

“Smile they said, things could be worse, so I did and they were….”
One of my mantras

My experiences have led to me search for ways to build a better world – I was a liberal until I knew better – I believed that I could be part of changing the world into a better place – but the harder I tried the worse it seemed to become. I thought I had found a ‘spiritual home’ and a group I belonged to when I discovered Anarchism and Direct Action, but like all my relationships it became problematic as I discovered that this group too was riddled with hypocrisies, double standards and, as it turned out, a rather distorted sense of what freedom means……. The systemic problems of the society and system I live in were mirrored in the very group that was trying to free itself from them. As I think Kurt Vonnegut might say, “How do you like them apples?”

Gilad Atzmon and the ‘Truth’

Gilad was a key part of accelerating that disenchantment – he has taught me so much and cost me so much…… I love him like the birth brother I am prevented from loving – although I have only met him a few times and we are in no sense close friends….. we too have political differences but at least we can try talking about them – and sometimes we even resolve them. Sometimes we tackle issues together – for most of the time I remain connected to him through his writings, which I read often – I must have read most of what he has written by now, and there is lots of it.

I understand that truth too is myth – even what we have seen with our own eyes, and experienced with our own lives, and which seems blatantly true to us, changes when we come to understand the motivations and reasons for the parts that other actors played in the event. It shifts as we learn more, and as we realise that our own issues have clouded our interpretation. Our culture, our upbringing and our personal pain all affect how we experience the world, and how we perceive it. I know this but Ali Abunimah, it seems, has yet to learn it.. as have others.

So, this is how I see Gilad and understand his work. It is part of an evolving view and it is possible that in time I may see it all completely differently. Gilad himself may identify with parts of it, and disagree with other parts. He may even help to change my view of him…… and maybe I can help change his view of him – all things are possible.

Like me, Gilad was born in an Apartheid society – in his case Israel. I should tell you that one of our key differences is around whether or not Israel is an Apartheid state – I am an Aye – he is a Nay. Unlike me, he bought into it as a kid. It was only when he was coming to the end of his time in the misleadingly named Israeli Defence Force, where he was a medic and musician, that he had cause to go to Lebanon and see the conditions that Palestinian prisoners were kept in. This led him to start questioning all that he had learnt and the society in which he grew up.

He left Israel and moved to Europe where he developed his music and also studied philosophy and did some training in psychotherapy. He found himself profoundly influenced by Otto Weineger, a disturbed and brilliant soul who wrote some disgusting stuff and killed himself at a very young age.

Influenced by Weineger, Gilad began examining himself – a process of looking into the mirror, and examining what he didn’t like about himself in minute detail. He came to think that Jewish identity was a part of his problem, and his study of this aspect of himself was further developed when he expanded his navel gazing to include a small but influential group of Jewish anti-Zionists, centred mainly in London where he also lives, and whom he publicly attackedafter they (JAZ) started attacking a group whom he discovered were also critically exploring the issue of Jewish ideology, often in an very offensive and unpleasant way. The group included Paul Eisen and Israel Shamir. I am not very clear on how close they were, or the interactions between them, but it does seem that they were all influenced by each other, and learnt from each other.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for accusations of anti-Semitism to start flying around – and for destruction to occur. The more the group developed their critique of Jewish Power, it seems the more Jewish Power was unleashed in an attempt to marginalise and destroy them. Gilad chose to face the onslaught full on, and despite serious attempts to marginalise and destroy him, he continues to develop his critique of them, their ideology and their power. He still works as an accomplished and popular Jazz musician and his writings are widely read – Erdogan even quoted him once which caused a major furore, and some respectable and respected individuals such as Richard Falk and Mearsheimer have been seriously attacked for coming out in support of his work. I too have been under sustained attack by Jewish anti-Zionists and Zionists alike.

The attempts to silence Gilad have been sustained and brutal, and it is difficult to read him if your introduction is the out of context snippets circulated with the intention of destroying him.

An example of this: I went to the launch of his book – and was met with the spectacle of folk I have been involved in BDS actions with, picketing the meeting and handing out a leaflet, written by arch rival Tony Greenstein which claimed to be snippets of the book (The wandering who says ….) They were not from the book at all. In order to attend the launch, I had to cross a picket line of people I have previously faced arrest with, and that pretty much ended my involvement as an activist who had been intensely involved in BDS Direct Actions. I now share many of Gilad’s reservations about, and critiques of BDS… although I continue to believe that every attempt should be made to isolate Israel as a brutal, Apartheid state.

Indymedia UK, a project I have a long association with, has been profoundly damaged by an insistence that it ban Atzmon, which didn’t happen, partly because I opposed the demand. It seems to me that if Indymedia UK lived up to its own aims and intentions it would be a good forum for the debate he is trying to launch – but it proved to be moribund by its own inconsistencies, and has so far not been able to stand up to the attacks on it by Atzmon’s opponents.

Recently my attention has been mainly focused on the brutal attack on the poor in the UK, currently being orchestrated by the nasties in the coalition, and their dismantling of all that made Britain a bearable place to live for those like me who feel unable to cope in the countries of their birth. I haven’t been writing on Palestine, and haven’t been involved in activism around it. I avoid demos because of the intense victimisation I have suffered at the hands of the police– who have helped me understand that the police are the enemy of freedom, and that for as long as we have police we cannot be free.

I have been horrified by how muted the so-called radical Left’s response has been to these brutal attacks on our own society’s most vulnerable. At times it has seemed as if I am back in an Apartheid state, with much of the left being in the position that Liberal white South Africans found themselves in – they knew it was wrong, but they were benefiting enough from it not to want seriously to destroy it. I have personally been affected by the cuts to services that have hindered my own attempts to free myself enough from my own disturbances and depression so that I can find a way of being in this world that allows to me function in a better way than I am able to now… In order that I don’t spend much of my time wishing I could go to sleep and never wake up, or fighting strong suicidal impulses.

I am wondering if it is even possible to be well-adjusted in a maladjusted world. If being well-adjusted means accepting inequality and injustice and allowing it to flourish, then I guess my project is doomed to failure.

If you believe the hype about Atzmon, as represented by his rivals, then he aims to turn us all into jack-booted racists. I know enough about him to think this is preposterous, and I am beginning to believe that part of what makes them most uncomfortable and angry about him – all that he hates most about the way that his Jewish upbringing has affected him – makes them profoundly uncomfortable about themselves too because, when we are confronted with parts of ourselves that repulse us, we often lash out.

I do believe that Gilad is part of a much wider struggle towards a world where we can live in dignity, and at peace with one another – for a while he ended all his performances with “What a wonderful World”. In any case, any new and improved society will have to include all, including those who offend us, disturb us or are from the far Right, regardless of whether we like them or not.

At the least Atzmon opens a debate that I think needs to be had – and which has been censored at a major cost to many – but he has chipped away at it and it seems to me that the debate is beginning to open up.

Despite all the time I have spent reading Atzmon, and listening to him, and recording him, I still don’t hate anyone on the basis that their mother or father happened to be Jewish. In fact, some of the most influential and loved people in my life fall into that category. So if his opponents are right about his project then it appears to be a failed project.

If his project is the deJudaization of Atzmon, it too is doomed to failure because his upbringing is central to who he is now. But his argument that people need to find a way of understanding and reducing the influence of the environments we grew up in and relinquishing the identities foisted upon us by them, has some validity in it, and it does seem that an increasing number of Jews are starting to explore the path.

I am out of energy – follow the links if you want to know more – and read Atzmon if you are able to open your mind enough to hear what he has to say, or perhaps start by listening to his music. If you insist on judging him solely on what his opponents say, then you aren’t going to be able to do it. And if you insist that you will only relate to me if I denounce him and stop reading his writings, then farewell until such time that you are ready to allow me the freedom to follow my own instincts and respect my right to live a life with as much integrity as I can muster.

I will end with one more part of my truth.

When I arrived at my adoptive home – having been stripped of my mother, my father, my brother, my home and my culture – they tried to rename me. Even at 5 I was stubborn enough to refuse to answer to the new name they wanted to foist onto me.

In my essence I am still that stubborn kid, who insists on being himself and I still thirst for a world which is propelled by a desire to meet need, not greed – where we do our utmost to ensure the dignity of all, and where we do not have states and corporations that rob so many of so much.

Maybe we’re part of the same struggle – but I have to do it my way – and that may sometimes make you uncomfortable. It certainly causes me great personal discomfort and costs me much.

If you read this far, I hope it has helped you understand some of the things I have done – and dispelled some of the preposterous myths about me (and, co-incidentally, Atzmon).

I thank you.

freethepeeps aka Roy Bard

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SHOE THROWN IN MIXED RECEPTION ROUHANI

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Shoe thrown in mixed reception for Rouhani after Obama call A shoe was thrown towards Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s car Saturday as he arrived home to a mixed reception for his historic call with Barack Obama. Some 60 hardline Islamists chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as Rouhani’s motorcade drew out of Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. But they were outnumbered by 200 to 300 supporters of the president who shouted: “Thank you Rouhani.” A small police contingent separated the rival demonstrators.The shoe missed the car and Rouhani stood up through the sunroof to acknowledge the crowds. Before leaving New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, Rouhani had a 15-minute telephone conversation with Obama on Friday, the first contact between leaders of the two countries in more than three decades.

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Sikhs’ Lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi

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By Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistani media is so engaged with the coverage of internal issues and acts of terrorism

that some important news are not highlighted. In this context, a lawsuit against Sonia

Gandhi, President of ruling Congress Party of India regarding the genocide of the Sikhs

in 1984 was ignored by our journalists, while even Indian renowned newspapers pointed

In this respect, “The Times of India” and “The Hindu” reported that a day after she

landed in the US for a medical check up, on a complaint by a Sikh group, a federal

court in New York issued summons to Congress President Sonia Gandhi for “shielding,

protecting and inciting leaders and workers of her party who were involved in attacks on

However, a lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi has been filed by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a USbased human rights group, under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim

Although Sonia Gandhi is on a medical visit to New York, yet Sikh’s psychological

injury appeared to have deeper scars which forced SFJ along with Jasbir Singh and

Mohender Singh, whose relatives were killed during days of rioting in New Delhi in

1984. They filed a collective plaintiff against her on September 3, this year, seeking

compensatory and punitive damages. They claimed that Sonia Gandhi played a role in

inciting and protecting Indian officials and Congress members including Kamal Nath,

Sajjan Kumar, and Jagdish Tytler who were involved in anti-Sikh violence.

The 27-page complaint against Gandhi revealed that between November 1 and 4, 1984

about 30,000 members of the Sikh community were intentionally tortured, raped and

murdered by groups which were incited, organized, controlled and armed by the ruling

Congress party under the direction of its President Sonia Gandhi.

According to attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, “the lawsuit

against Sonia Gandhi is motivated by an interest in seeking some form of justice for

the victims of November 1984 massacre…will raise awareness to the international

community regarding denial of justice to the victims and is a mean of holding parties

in power accountable for their gross violations of human rights…also offering the

potential to deter future abuses.” He argued that Sonia Gandhi’s conduct of protecting

the perpetrators of November 1984 genocide gave rise to liability applicable under

international and domestic laws, and international treaties and federal common law.

The legal complaint also indicated that in August, 2013, a group of Congress workers

attacked a colony in New Delhi where some witnesses of the anti-Sikh riots live.

Nevertheless, the summons by the court asked Sonia Gandhi to serve an answer to the

complainant within 21 days of receipt.

It is notable that in June 1984, Indian military, led by General Kuldip Singh Brar had

launched attack on the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in 1984, to arrest

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the only leader who had boldly been fighting for the

genuine rights of the Sikhs. The Indian Army supported by troops and armoured vehicles

broke all records of the state terrorism and extra-judicial killings through that barbaric

operation, called the ‘Operation Blue Star’

The brutality of the ‘Operation Blue Star’ was not confined to the Golden Temple. Indian

armed forces simultaneously attacked 40 other historical gurdwaras all over East Punjab.

When Sikhs in other states came to know about the desecration of the Golden Temple

and massacre of their brethren, they quickly left for Punjab. New Delhi tried to stop them

before they could reach Punjab. Many Sikhs were assassinated on the way and many

According to an estimate, about 50,000 Sikhs were killed within a few days. The whole

Amritsar city was sealed and was burnt. A number of tourists either were murdered

or arrested. Shops belonging to Sikhs were looted and their houses were set ablaze by

Hindu mobs. In most of the cases, Sikh women were molested and some persons of their

community were also burnt.

In the same year of November, 1984, two dedicated Sikhs named Beant Singh and

Satwant Singh who were posted at Premier Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi,

killed her. Then Hindu riots erupted in the capital and other cities in which more then

15,000 Sikhs were murdered in broad daylight by the supporters of Indira Gandhi, while

police watched silently so as to provide the Hindus with free hand to massacre Sikhs.

The memory recall underscores worst episodes of genocide of Sikh community (1984)

in India, in which many Sikhs were killed, tortured, women raped and children stabbed

to death, while Sikh properties were looted, destroyed and usurped by hooligans who

were involved in cleansing of entire Sikh community. This led to many widows with

their young babies to be fed without any support—spouses, parentless children, bereaved

parents and young-grown up sisters who were raped on having reached their marriageable

age. Sikh humiliation was at peak as their women were subjected to rape in the presence

of their male relatives during anti-Sikh riots in India.

The Sikh community stealthily left India having lost their near and dear ones, throwing

away their flourishing business, lovely homes and green farms where they were brought

up along with their peers, relatives and friends. The entire community was disgracefully

shattered and forced to live a substandard life, while their movements were subjected

It was impossible for the Sikhs to forget the abusive crimes committed by Indian

Congress activists against them in 1984. Hence, they filed a case against Sonaia Gandhi,

the President of Congress Party of India, as she “conspired, aided and abetted others”

including local police officers, fellow Congress workers and paramilitary troops,” which

committed brutal acts against the Sikhs.

It is expected that US Justice System will maintain its repute and deliver fair justice to the

bereaved Sikh community which is still moaning their wounds and seeking a platform to

address their psychological grievances.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic

Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Affairs

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‘Too many questions’ in UN chemical weapons report to blame Damascus

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepares to speak to the media about the conclusion of the U.N. inspectors' report on chemical weapons use in Syria after a Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters on September 16, 2013 in New York City. (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepares to speak to the media about the conclusion of the U.N. inspectors’ report on chemical weapons use in Syria after a Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters on September 16, 2013 in New York City. (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

While many in the West asserted that the UN report on August sarin attack in Syria all but proves the Syrian government was behind it, a closer look on it shows inconsistencies which clash with that narrative, says political expert Sharmine Narwani.

“I am certainly not saying that the UN team was trying to cover anything up. But I think some of this was staged and manipulated for impact,” she told RT.

Narwani, who is a senior associate at Oxford University, detailed her doubts about the UN report and the conclusions drawn from it in a piece she co-authored for the English-language branch of Al Akhbar, a Beirut-based newspaper.

The piece points to some facts mentioned in the report, which those accusing Damascus of the incident don’t take into account, but which also may cast doubt on that scenario. For instance The UN inspectors had to conduct their probe in tight time constraints, spending just two hours at one location and five-and-a-half hours at the other.

 

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 allegedly shows a UN inspectors (C) visiting a hospital in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham. (AFP Photo)An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 allegedly shows a UN inspectors (C) visiting a hospital in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham. (AFP Photo)

 

Both locations are controlled by rebel forces and were not cordoned off until the UN team arrived. On the contrary, the report mentions on several occasion that potential evidence they were presented was“being moved and possibly manipulated.” A similar problem arises with witnesses interviewed and victims sampled by the UN, who had been pre-screened by the rebels.

“It was a questionable exercise from the start. If you cannot have proper access, random sampling and the time you need in which to conduct a thorough investigation, what was the point?” Narwani wondered in a comment for RT.

The particular evidence the UN team reports are open for interpretation, the Al Akhbar piece said. One is inconsistency between human and environmental samples gathered at Moadamiyah, the area in West Ghouta which the inspectors visited on August 26 before moving to a second location. Alleged victims of the attack there tested highest for sarin exposure in the entire sampling, but environmental samples showed no traces of sarin.

Some of the samples in the area contained sarin degradation products, but at the same time many samples gathered from the other area, which were taken days later tested positive for sarin. A scenario, in which the victims were exposed to sarin somewhere else and brought to Moadamiyah for UN inspectors to investigate, is one possible explanation.

The authors also cite American chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta, who pointed out that the 36 survivors tested by the UN mission are too small a sample from statistical point of view to represent the entire population of affected victims. He also wonders why the number of victims showing symptoms of more serious sarin exposure was so large compared to those showing milder symptoms.

Finally there are questions to the munitions examination conducted by the UN, which many reports said proved beyond doubt that the sarin attack originated from a base of the government troops. Of the five munitions mentioned in the report as possible sources of sarin, only two provide a trajectory date.

 

Image from Secretary General Report of CW InvestigationImage from Secretary General Report of CW Investigation

One was successfully identified and could have been fired from the base in question, but it didn’t test positive for sarin. The other one is a ‘mystery missile’ with sarin traces, the range of which remains in question. Given its larger caliber, it could have been fired from a rebel-controlled area located further from the impact site that the government base, the authors argue.

“There are just too many questions. And unfortunately people have leaped ahead with stark answers,”Narwani told RT. “It’s not the case. Nobody is able to make a conclusive determination of any kind based on the evidence that the UN team provided.”

The UN report gave the grounds for US and some other Western nations to reiterate their demands for Syrian President Bashar Assad to be ousted and possibly tried for war crimes. Narwani agrees that the perpetrators of the chemical attacks must be brought to justice, but suggests not jumping to conclusions over an issue of such importance.

“We need to identify culpability here and we cannot do it on the basis of the current report of the United Nations. And it’s very dangerous to extrapolate from a report with these many holes,” she said.

“What’s important here is that the UN as the result of all these holes in its original report needs to then address these and ensure for itself that it has the proper access and time to investigate other areas of alleged chemical weapons attacks,” she added, referring to the return of the UN inspectors to Syria this week.

Narwani called on Russia to make public the evidence that it presented to other UN Security Council members and which, Moscow says, proves that rebels have possession of chemical weapons.

She also said that parties involved in the Syrian crisis in any way should pursue less their own goals and focus on the important part, which is stopping the bloodshed.

“We’ve been stalemated for a very long time in this conflict,” she said. “I think an end is possible, but the rhetoric needs to stop, things need to start being evidence-based and the headlines need to show a little bit more responsibility.”

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Naziyahu’s goal: Preventing the U.S. from sliding down Iran’s slippery slope

NOVANEWS

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Even if he prepared a brilliant speech, Naziyahu knows that at best he can only expose the cracks in the new front Iran is displaying to the world; he will not be able to turn things around.

Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States and his speech to the United Nations General Assembly will probably not stop the international shift in Iran’s favor. The speech by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to the General Assembly achieved its goal – selling a more moderate image of Tehran and the renewal of negotiations on limiting the Iranian nuclear program in a better atmosphere than that of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even if he prepared a brilliant speech this time, Netanyahu knows that at best he can only expose the cracks in the new front Iran is displaying to the world; he will not be able to turn things around.

In his meetings in Washington and New York, Netanyahu will not be able to convince the Obama administration to lead an American attack on Iranian nuclear sites – and will also not even allow a hint of an inclination toward an Israeli attack on Iran.

The handling of the Iranian nuclear question is now entering a channel where much is known in advance: A few rounds of talks between Iran and the six world powers, at the end of which a compromise acceptable to both sides will be reached – though not necessarily acceptable to Israel. The possibility of a military attack on Iran will be discussed again only in the event that the diplomatic contacts end in a clear failure, and in any case it will only be on the agenda from next spring and afterward.

Slippery slope

What Netanyahu wants to achieve now is a different goal: to prevent America from sliding too fast down what the prime minister sees as the slippery slope.

Netanyahu will seek to prevent erosion in the demands the world powers set for Iran – Israel had wanted them to be stricter – and no less than that, to prevent an easing of the sanctions on Tehran before a final agreement is reached.

The economic sanctions have already led to a depreciation of the Iranian currency, the rial, of 75 percent in relation to the dollar, and have caused enormous damage to the Iranian economy. Rohani is interested in achieving an easing of the sanctions already at the start of negotiations as a confidence building measure.

A wide range of sanctions were imposed on Iran in recent years by the U.S. president, Congress, the UN Security Council and the European Union. U.S. President Barack Obama is authorized to ease only the sanctions he himself imposed. But the sanctions that led to the change in Iran’s position were imposed first and foremost by the U.S. Congress, in 2011 legislation sponsored by Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez. The legislation, which the Obama administration initially opposed, cut Iran off almost completely from the international banking system, forcing it to rely on barter deals instead of cash for selling its oil.

The House Foreign Relations Committee was also a partner in this important move. Senior committee members Ed Royce and Eliot Engel are now actually speaking of the need to make the sanctions stricter to increase the pressure on Iran. This, in a nutshell, is the present battle: If Rouhani came to New York to open the tap, Netanyahu’s goal is to tighten it a turn further so Iran remains under pressure and agrees to a deal Israel also finds acceptable. Netanyahu has great support in this effort from traditional supporters of Israel in both parties on Capitol Hill. The question is whether that will be enough this time.

Meanwhile, Rohani seems to have the upper hand in the international arena. The position he presented this week in the United Nations drew an almost collective sigh of relief from Washington, stretching from the extreme right-wing isolationists to the sick-of-war liberals on Obama’s side. They hope that finally there is a sane president in Iran, and that along with the hardline Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei turning a blind eye, this will save the Americans from a third 21st-century war in the Middle East.

But Rohani, who warned of “Iranophobia” in the West, has not gone all the way. He declined to shake hands with Obama or meet him, he was not even present in the hall when Obama gave his speech to the General Assembly. Rohani’s actions are not necessarily going over well at home though. Khamenei and Rohani spoke at a gathering of Revolutionary Guards officers this month, and the Supreme Leader spoke of the need to demonstrate “heroic flexibility” on behalf of Iranian interests. The leaders of the Revolutionary Guards did not particularly love the message, and in particular the claim that they should concentrate their efforts on defending the country instead of getting involved in determining strategic policy.

A number of media outlets have reported a stormy debate in Tehran over the degree that Iran can compromise with the West. After Rohani was interviewed on CNN this week and quoted as saying he recognized the fact of the Holocaust – in contrast with the policy of his predecessor – the official Iranian Fars news agency quickly announced that Rohani had been misquoted and that the translation was incorrect.

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I$raHell is more Jewish than democratic, new civics textbooks assert

NOVANEWS

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Haaretz

A soon-to-be-published report on revisions made to high school civics textbook shows that the new revised edition places a greater emphasis on presenting Israel as a nation-state for Jews than on presenting Israel as a democratic country.

According to the report’s author, Dr. Halleli Pinson of the University of Haifa, the changes made to eight chapters of the textbook Being Citizens in Israel are far-reaching. While the previous edition attempted to give students a nuanced outlook, the new edition, which began to be used in Israeli schools last year, is missing important information.

Dr. Yousef Jabareen of the Nazareth based Arab Center for Law and Policy – Dirasat said that many Arab civics teachers were having difficulty teaching the new version “but since the material is a part of the matriculation exam, they have no choice.”

The decision to revise Being Citizens in Israel was due to claims that the book’s previous edition was critical of the state. Prof. Asher Cohen, a fellow at the Institute for Zionist Strategy, one of the organizations that criticized the previous edition, now heads a committee in charge of preparing the civics curriculum. Another member of the institute, Dr. Aviad Bakshi, is the only academic adviser to work on the book’s revision, as Haaretz revealed last week.

Pinson’s report, entitled “From a Jewish and Democratic State to a Jewish State Period,” states that while the institute claimed that the previous edition was biased, it is now, due to the institute’s involvement, suffers more significantly from “ideological biases, concealing of data, and the presentation of a monolithic approach.”

Haaretz has learned that the Education Ministry was pressured into publishing the revised chapters without the usual evaluation by academics. The ministry said in response that the new chairwoman of its Pedagogical Secretariat Rahel Matuki would “rectify the evaluation process and the book’s approval as early as this year.”

One major problem with the revised chapters, according to the report, is that Israel’s character as both a Jewish and a democratic state are hardly mentioned. Several sections open by presenting Israel as a Jewish state, and even when the word democratic appears “it is made clear to students by the way the material is organized and emphasized that Israel’s definition as a Jewish state precedes that of a democratic state,” Pinson says. According to Pinson, the revised chapters are based on the model of a Jewish ethnic-cultural state as the preferred model.

In Chapter 4, justifications described as “liberal” are presented for a nation-state. For example, with regard to minority rights, it states that such rights must be “strictly maintained,” but immediately thereafter states that “minorities have a right to their own culture in their communities but don’t have the right to have their culture formulated into the general identity of the state.”

“Not only is this approach not liberal,” Pinson says, “but one could wonder whether it is even consistent with a democratic regime.” Another claim in favor of an ethnic nation state, also presented as liberal, is that there is a greater chance for social solidarity among members of the same ethnic group. “Natural solidarity among Jews can be utilized in a Jewish nation state to increase welfare legislation for the benefit of the weaker segments of society,” the book states. It also explains that if Jewish solidary causes Israel’s citizens to legislate social laws or institute a minimum wage, all citizens enjoy these laws, no matter what their nationality.”

However, Pinson says that “the Israeli reality, in which various groups are excluded and discriminated against, attests to the opposite.”

Pinson says the book adopts “a discourse that was accepted up to the 1980s, that saw Arab citizens as a collection of religious-cultural or language groups, not an ethnic minority” and emphasizes the Arab-Palestinian identity the way old textbooks once did. For example: “the Arab minority in Israel is part of the Middle East biggest group.”

Pinson says the information presented in the book about the Arab minority is “disconnected from any social or political context.” For example, it notes that Arab participation in the workforce is low compared to the rest of the population and that their “contribution to the GDP is only 8 percent, although they are 20 percent of the population.” Pinson believes that presenting this information without relating it to discrimination and inequality – concepts that are hardly mentioned in the revised chapters – leaves students with a disturbing implied message – “as if the Arab minority itself is responsible for its low participation in the workforce, and this should be seen as an indication of their [sense of] belonging to the state.”

The book does note that gaps between Arabs and Jews leads to “low income, poverty, lack of jobs and industry and obstacles to establishing Arab business initiatives,” and that Arabs are under-represented in the civil service, but no real explanation is given for this situation.

Pinson says the book also justifies occupation and deportation; for example, Chapter 1 states that “the lands of the state were determined in various ways, including diplomatic agreements, occupation and separation of states.” The mention of diplomatic agreements together with occupation conveys a message that does not conform to international conventions to which Israel is a signatory,” Pinson says.

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Iran’s Rouhani: I$raHell should sign non-nuclear treaty

NOVANEWS

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses a High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament during the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013. (AFP Photo / Mike Segar)

Iran has urged Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Speaking at the UN General Assembly for the second time this week, President Hassan Rouhani called for a world disarmament conference to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, the threat of their use exists,” Rouhani said, recalling the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Calling for a “nuclear-free zone” in the Middle East, Rouhani said that Israel was the only country in the region that had not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Earlier, Arab states proposed a non-binding resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), calling for Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and submit its alleged nuclear facilities to IAEA monitoring.

But member states of the UN nuclear agency voted down the resolution.

Rouhani has called for a conference to create a zone free of nuclear weapons or any WMD weapons in the Middle East without delay. All countries, he said, should participate in the conference.

He stated that any use of nuclear weapons is a violation against humanity, stating that “the world has waited too long for nuclear disarmament.”

“Almost four decades of international efforts to establish nuclear weapon-free zones have regrettably failed,” he said. “Urgent, practical steps toward the establishment of such a zone are necessary. The international community has to redouble efforts in support of the establishment of this zone.”

Nuclear disarmament “should be implemented in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner,”Rouhani declared.

On the way to full elimination, “nuclear states should refrain from threats or use of such weapons against non-nuclear states under any circumstances,” he said.

“Threatening non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons should end. The modernization of these weapons undercuts efforts for their total abolition,” Iranian President stressed.

Israel is believed to possess anywhere from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons, including thermonuclear weapons in the megaton range. Israel has always avoided confirming or denying whether it has nuclear weapons, but has consistently accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons and posing a threat to world security.

However, Israel denounced Iran’s call and accused Tehran of diverting attention from the regime’s own nuclear work.

“The man [Iran’s leader Hasan Rouhani] is an expert with tricks,” Israel’s minister for strategic and intelligence affairs Yuval Steinitz told AFP. “Instead of saying that Iran will finally comply with the Security Council resolutions, it tries to shift attention to Israel.”

Speaking earlier to The Washington Post regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Rouhani said that Tehran wants to reach a deal as soon as possible with the P5+1 group of nations that discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

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