Archive | April 10th, 2014

Rwanda, 20 Years On – “100 Percent American Responsibility”

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Rwanda and the new Scramble for Africa

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 Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa 

“…essential reading.” Edward S. Herman

April 6, 2014 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the shooting down over Kigali of a plane carrying two African heads of state, Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. We know that that terrorist crime—surely the worst of the 1990s—triggered unending war, destruction, and massacres in Rwanda and Congo. Yet it has never been elucidated and nobody has been brought to justice. Despite the wilful blindness and amnesia about the most critical crime in the Rwandan and Congolese tragedies, politicians, diplomats, pundits, intellectuals, and retired presidents, prime ministers and generals, constantly invoke “Rwanda” as though the word alone confers some supposed truth and moral authority on the political, military and imperial positions they defend. “Rwanda” has been used specifically to justify violent military “humanitarian” intervention in Libya, Sudan, Mali, Syria, and the Central African Republic. “Everywhere is Rwanda for the humanitarian imperialist,” noted Max Forte in his book Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa:

The official and deafening narrative behind the use of the word “Rwanda” holds that:

1) horrible Rwandan Hutu génocidaires planned and executed a satanic scheme to eliminate nearly a million Tutsis after a mysterious plane crash killed the former president of Rwanda on April 6, 1994;

2) that the Rwandan Patriotic Front led by the brilliant military political strategist Paul Kagame, now president of Rwanda, swept down from the North, stopped the genocide and took power on July 19, 1994;

3) the international community stood idly by while Nazi-like killers virtually eliminated the Tutsis of Rwanda’s; and

4) Paul Kagame has transformed that genocide-torn country into an African miracle thanks to his visionary, though tough, political leadership. We have thus learned from “Rwanda” that in the future and in the name of humanity, we—meaning the armies of North America and Europe—must intervene militarily to prevent these peoples from killing themselves.

“100 percent American responsibility”—Boutros Boutros-Ghali

One of the first to put a crack in the official narrative was Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was Secretary General of the UN during the Rwandan war. He declared to me that, “the Rwandan genocide was 100 percent American responsibility.” The man whom US State Department officials called “Frenchie” before they unceremoniously ejected him from the UN explained: “The US effort to prevent the effective deployment of a UN force for Rwanda succeeded with the strong support of Britain.”

Declassified Clinton administration documents confirm that then US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was instructed by the State Department on April 15, 1994 to do everything necessary to have the UN withdraw all UNAMIR forces from Rwanda and to ensure that there would be no more discussion and no more resolutions. Thus after the Rwandan Patriotic Front resumed war on April 6 with the downing of the presidential plane, Washington’s policy was not to obtain a ceasefire. Yet that would have been the only logical, just, and legitimate policy under the 1993 Arusha Peace Accord, which Washington, along with London and Paris and others, had initiated and oversaw under UN auspices.

All serious evidence and testimony also points directly to Paul Kagame and the RPF as the perpetrators of the April 6 assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. That attack combined with the blitzkrieg-like resumption of war—revealing total preparation and knowledge of the assassination—belies the tale that the RPF swept down to stop genocide. It was more like “Shock and Awe” on Kigali.

Washington’s policy, which flew in the face of the very Peace Accord they were stewarding, was to create conditions for a decisive victory for the army of Rwandan Patriotic Front—whatever the cost may be. There was to be no power-sharing as called for the in Peace Accord because that would have left the RPF hamstrung, unable to achieve military domination in Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region. Whereas the US and the UK actually blocked attempts to achieve peace and stop the killing, the official story would be that all of us, the entire “international community” as they call “us,” simply abandoned the Rwandan Tutsis; thus we should all collectively join in the chorus led by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and say, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, Never Again.”

Former Kagame aids have dispelled any doubts about Washington’s and the RPF’s policy of Washington. Theogene Rudasingwa, who was a Rwandan Ambassador to the United States and Paul Kagame’s chief of staff, wrote: “RPF could sense that an international peacekeeping force would freeze the situation and take away its military initiative. Gerald Gahima and Claude Dusaidi articulated this position in the Washington, D.C. and New York meetings.” Then Rudasingwa added that, on the other hand: “In RPF’s media campaign, and on Radio Muhabira, our strategy was to attack the international community for abandoning Rwanda.” (Healing a Nation: Waging and Winning a Peaceful Revolution to Unite and Heal a Broken Rwanda, Createspace, 2014, p. 156).

The “supreme international crime” swept under the rug

Another crucial truth that the deafening narrative has buried is the war that preceded the shooting down of the presidential plane on April 6, 1994. The invasion of Rwanda on October 1, 1990 by 4000 Ugandan uniform-bearing troops that would become the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front was not only a breach of international law, it was the crime against peace, the “supreme international crime” as Nuremberg Judge Birkett described it. (In its unfathomable wisdom, The New York Times Magazine in a glossy 2002 feature described that invasion as simply “increased tensions.”) Nobody who invokes “Rwanda” to justify humanitarian intervention ever mentions or wants to hear of that invasion or the military occupation and the murderous war that ensued for three and a half years.

In 2010, a United Nations Mapping Report confirmed the genocidal nature of the Rwandan Army’s killing in the Congo following the invasion of Congo (then Zaïre). This should be a hint about the nature of the RPF. In fact, a close look at the war on Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 shows that the massive killing began well before April 1994 and that the perpetrators were the RPF led by Paul Kagame. What has occurred in the Congo also occurred in Rwanda before April 6, 1994.

Victors’ justice fails to provide facts

What about the alleged planning to exterminate Tutsis? Though nobody disputes the fact that there was massive killing in Rwanda in 1994, the problem for the defenders of the popular narrative is that they lack adjudicated facts to back their claims. Although a victors’ justice court—the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda—was established in 1995 with all the means necessary, on the fundamental allegation, “Conspiracy to Commit Genocide,” the man who has been constantly accused of being the “brains” behind the massacres, the “biggest fish,” Théoneste Bagosora, along with his three co-accused were all acquitted of that charge. Despite some eighteen years of trials with masses of sworn testimony and evidence, the facts simply do not support the official narrative about Rwanda.

The Rwandan military and the police, who were the only one able to stop the killing in April, May and June 1994, were simply unable to do so because they were engaged in a war to the finish with a powerful and fully-equipped military machine known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front. That army also enjoyed the political, diplomatic, and military backing of two very powerful countries, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The cynical operating of those two major powers along with their minions thus provoked death and destruction on an unequalled scale in Central Africa. Yet these same powers and their stellar former leaders—Bill Clinton and Tony Blair—have the gall to transform that terrible tragedy into a useful imperial fiction used to justify further military intervention, mainly in Africa.

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Twenty Years Ago, The US was Behind the Genocide: Rwanda, Installing a US Proxy State in Central Africa

NOVANEWS
By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research
rwanda map large 300 300

Author’s note

The world  is currently commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The official story is that the genocide directed against the Tutsi population was triggered by the Interhamwe militia of the Habyarimana government in the wake of the plane crash which led to the death of president Habyarimana. The evidence suggests that the United States played a covert role in shooting down the plane.

The geopolitics underlying the Rwandan genocide should be understood.

Whereas France was accused of supporting the Habyarimana government. the United States played an undercover role in triggering the genocide.

The ultimate objective was to displace France from Central Africa. It is worth noting that that a similar situation is unfolding in the Central African republic which historically has been an area of French influence. Ethnic divisions between Christians and Muslims are being fomented the ultimate objective is to establish a US proxy states in the Central African republic.

The 1994 Rwandan “genocide” served strictly strategic and geopolitical objectives. The ethnic massacres were a stumbling blow to France’s credibility which enabled the US to establish a neocolonial foothold in Central Africa. From a distinctly Franco-Belgian colonial setting, the Rwandan capital Kigali has become –under the expatriate Tutsi led RPF government– distinctly Anglo-American. English has become the dominant language in government and the private sector. Many private businesses owned by Hutus were taken over in 1994 by returning Tutsi expatriates. The latter had been exiled in Anglophone Africa, the US and Britain.

The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) functions in English and Kinyarwanda, the University previously linked to France and Belgium functions in English. While English had become an official language alongside French and Kinyarwanda, French political and cultural influence will eventually be erased. Washington has become the new colonial master of a francophone country.

In the words of former Cooperation Minister Bernard Debré in the government of France’s Prime Minister Henri Balladur:

“What one forgets to say is that, if France was on one side, the Americans were on the other, arming the Ugandans, who armed the Tutsis. I don’t want to portray a showdown between the French and the Anglo-Saxons, but the truth must be told.” 43

Originally written in May 2000, published on Global research in May 2003, the following text is Part II of Chapter 7 entitled “Economic Genocide in Rwanda”, Second Edition of The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order , Global Research, 2003. 

Michel Chossudovsky, April 6, 2014

*      *     *

Rwanda, Installing a US Protectorate in Central Africa. The US was Behind the Rwanda Genocide

by Michel Chossudovsky

First  published in May 2000, posted by Global Research May 2003

The civil war in Rwanda and the ethnic massacres were an integral part of US foreign policy, carefully staged in accordance with precise strategic and economic objectives.

From the outset of the Rwandan civil war in 1990, Washington’s hidden agenda consisted in establishing an American sphere of influence in a region historically dominated by France and Belgium. America’s design was to displace France by supporting the Rwandan Patriotic Front and by arming and equipping its military arm, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA)

From the mid-1980s, the Kampala government under President Yoweri Musaveni had become Washington’s African showpiece of “democracy”. Uganda had also become a launchpad for US sponsored guerilla movements into the Sudan, Rwanda and the Congo. Major General Paul Kagame had been head of military intelligence in the Ugandan Armed Forces; he had been trained at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College (CGSC) in Leavenworth, Kansas which focuses on warfighting and military strategy. Kagame returned from Leavenworth to lead the RPA, shortly after the 1990 invasion.

Prior to the outbreak of the Rwandan civil war, the RPA was part of the Ugandan Armed Forces. Shortly prior to the October 1990 invasion of Rwanda, military labels were switched. From one day to the next, large numbers of Ugandan soldiers joined the ranks of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Throughout the civil war, the RPA was supplied from United People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) military bases inside Uganda. The Tutsi commissioned officers in the Ugandan army took over positions in the RPA. The October 1990 invasion by Ugandan forces was presented to public opinion as a war of liberation by a Tutsi led guerilla army.

Militarization of Uganda

The militarization of Uganda was an integral part of US foreign policy. The build-up of the Ugandan UPDF Forces and of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) had been supported by the US and Britain. The British had provided military training at the Jinja military base:

“From 1989 onwards, America supported joint RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]-Ugandan attacks upon Rwanda… There were at least 56 ‘situation reports’ in [US] State Department files in 1991… As American and British relations with Uganda and the RPF strengthened, so hostilities between Uganda and Rwanda escalated… By August 1990 the RPF had begun preparing an invasion with the full knowledge and approval of British intelligence. 20

Troops from Rwanda’s RPA and Uganda’s UPDF had also supported John Garang’s People’s Liberation Army in its secessionist war in southern Sudan. Washington was firmly behind these initiatives with covert support provided by the CIA. 21

Moreover, under the Africa Crisis Reaction Initiative (ACRI),Ugandan officers were also being trained by US Special Forces in collaboration with a mercenary outfit, Military Professional Resources Inc (MPRI) which was on contract with the US Department of State. MPRI had provided similar training to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Croatian Armed Forces during the Yugoslav civil war and more recently to the Colombian Military in the context of Plan Colombia.

Militarization and the Ugandan External Debt

The buildup of the Ugandan external debt under President Musaveni coincided chronologically with the Rwandan and Congolese civil wars. With the accession of Musaveni to the presidency in 1986, the Ugandan external debt stood at 1.3 billion dollars. With the gush of fresh money, the external debt spiraled overnight, increasing almost threefold to 3.7 billion by 1997. In fact, Uganda had no outstanding debt to the World Bank at the outset of its “economic recovery program”. By 1997, it owed almost 2 billion dollars solely to the World Bank. 22

Where did the money go? The foreign loans to the Musaveni government had been tagged to support the country’s economic and social reconstruction. In the wake of a protracted civil war, the IMF sponsored “economic stabilization program” required massive budget cuts of all civilian programs.

The World Bank was responsible for monitoring the Ugandan budget on behalf of the creditors. Under the “public expenditure review” (PER), the government was obliged to fully reveal the precise allocation of its budget. In other words, every single category of expenditure –including the budget of the Ministry of Defense– was open to scrutiny by the World Bank. Despite the austerity measures (imposed solely on “civilian” expenditures), the donors had allowed defense spending to increase without impediment.

Part of the money tagged for civilian programs had been diverted into funding the United People’s Defense Force (UPDF) which in turn was involved in military operations in Rwanda and the Congo. The Ugandan external debt was being used to finance these military operations on behalf of Washington with the country and its people ultimately footing the bill. In fact by curbing social expenditures, the austerity measures had facilitated the reallocation of State of revenue in favor of the Ugandan military.

Financing both Sides in the Civil War

A similar process of financing military expenditure from the external debt had occurred in Rwanda under the Habyarimana government. In a cruel irony, both sides in the civil war were financed by the same donors institutions with the World Bank acting as a Watchdog.

The Habyarimana regime had at its disposal an arsenal of military equipment, including 83mm missile launchers, French made Blindicide, Belgian and German made light weaponry, and automatic weapons such as kalachnikovs made in Egypt, China and South Africa [as well as … armored AML-60 and M3 armored vehicles.23 While part of these purchases had been financed by direct military aid from France, the influx of development loans from the World Bank’s soft lending affiliate the International Development Association (IDA), the African Development Fund (AFD), the European Development Fund (EDF) as well as from Germany, the United States, Belgium and Canada had been diverted into funding the military and Interhamwe militia.

A detailed investigation of government files, accounts and correspondence conducted in Rwanda in 1996-97 by the author –together with Belgian economist Pierre Galand– confirmed that many of the arms purchases had been negotiated outside the framework of government to government military aid agreements through various intermediaries and private arms dealers. These transactions –recorded as bona fide government expenditures– had nonetheless been included in the State budget which was under the supervision of the World Bank. Large quantities of machetes and other items used in the 1994 ethnic massacres –routinely classified as “civilian commodities” — had been imported through regular trading channels. 24

According to the files of the National Bank of Rwanda (NBR), some of these imports had been financed in violation of agreements signed with the donors. According to NBR records of import invoices, approximately one million machetes had been imported through various channels including Radio Mille Collines, an organization linked to the Interhamwe militia and used to foment ethnic hatred. 25

The money had been earmarked by the donors to support Rwanda’s economic and social development. It was clearly stipulated that funds could not be used to import: “military expenditures on arms, ammunition and other military material”. 26 In fact, the loan agreement with the World Bank’s IDA was even more stringent. The money could not be used to import civilian commodities such as fuel, foodstuffs, medicine, clothing and footwear “destined for military or paramilitary use”. The records of the NBR nonetheless confirm that the Habyarimana government used World Bank money to finance the import of machetes which had been routinely classified as imports of “civilian commodities.” 27

An army of consultants and auditors had been sent in by the World Bank to assess the Habyarimana government’s “policy performance” under the loan agreement.28 The use of donor funds to import machetes and other material used in the massacres of civilians did not show up in the independent audit commissioned by the government and the World Bank. (under the IDA loan agreement. (IDA Credit Agreement. 2271-RW).29 In 1993, the World Bank decided to suspend the disbursement of the second installment of its IDA loan. There had been, according to the World Bank mission unfortunate “slip-ups” and “delays” in policy implementation. The free market reforms were no longer “on track”, the conditionalities –including the privatization of state assets– had not been met. The fact that the country was involved in a civil war was not even mentioned. How the money was spent was never an issue.30

Whereas the World Bank had frozen the second installment (tranche) of the IDA loan, the money granted in 1991 had been deposited in a Special Account at the Banque Bruxelles Lambert in Brussels. This account remained open and accessible to the former regime (in exile), two months after the April 1994 ethnic massacres.31

Postwar Cover-up

In the wake of the civil war, the World Bank sent a mission to Kigali with a view to drafting a so-called loan “Completion Report”.32 This was a routine exercise, largely focussing on macro-economic rather than political issues. The report acknowledged that “the war effort prompted the [former] government to increase substantially spending, well beyond the fiscal targets agreed under the SAP.33 The misappropriation of World Bank money was not mentioned. Instead the Habyarimana government was praised for having “made genuine major efforts– especially in 1991– to reduce domestic and external financial imbalances, eliminate distortions hampering export growth and diversification and introduce market based mechanisms for resource allocation…” 34, The massacres of civilians were not mentioned; from the point of view of the donors, “nothing had happened”. In fact the World Bank completion report failed to even acknowledge the existence of a civil war prior to April 1994.

In the wake of the Civil War: Reinstating the IMF’s Deadly Economic Reforms

In 1995, barely a year after the 1994 ethnic massacres. Rwanda’s external creditors entered into discussions with the Tutsi led RPF government regarding the debts of the former regime which had been used to finance the massacres. The RPF decided to fully recognize the legitimacy of the “odious debts” of the 1990-94. RPF strongman Vice-President Paul Kagame [now President] instructed the Cabinet not to pursue the matter nor to approach the World Bank. Under pressure from Washington, the RPF was not to enter into any form of negotiations, let alone an informal dialogue with the donors.

The legitimacy of the wartime debts was never questioned. Instead, the creditors had carefully set up procedures to ensure their prompt reimbursement. In 1998 at a special donors’ meeting in Stockholm, a Multilateral Trust Fund of 55.2 million dollars was set up under the banner of postwar reconstruction.35 In fact, none of this money was destined for Rwanda. It had been earmarked to service Rwanda’s “odious debts” with the World Bank (–i.e. IDA debt), the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

In other words, “fresh money” –which Rwanda will eventually have to reimburse– was lent to enable Rwanda to service the debts used to finance the massacres. Old loans had been swapped for new debts under the banner of post-war reconstruction.36 The “odious debts” had been whitewashed, they had disappeared from the books. The creditor’s responsibility had been erased. Moreover, the scam was also conditional upon the acceptance of a new wave of IMF-World Bank reforms.

Post War “Reconstruction and Reconciliation”

Bitter economic medicine was imposed under the banner of “reconstruction and reconciliation”. In fact the IMF post-conflict reform package was far stringent than that imposed at the outset of the civil war in 1990. While wages and employment had fallen to abysmally low levels, the IMF had demanded a freeze on civil service wages alongside a massive retrenchment of teachers and health workers. The objective was to “restore macro-economic stability”. A downsizing of the civil service was launched.37 Civil service wages were not to exceed 4.5 percent of GDP, so-called “unqualified civil servants” (mainly teachers) were to be removed from the State payroll. 38

Meanwhile, the country’s per capita income had collapsed from $360 (prior to the war) to $140 in 1995. State revenues had been tagged to service the external debt. Kigali’s Paris Club debts were rescheduled in exchange for “free market” reforms. Remaining State assets were sold off to foreign capital at bargain prices.

The Tutsi led RPF government rather than demanding the cancellation of Rwanda’s odious debts, had welcomed the Bretton Woods institutions with open arms. They needed the IMF “greenlight” to boost the development of the military.

Despite the austerity measures, defense expenditure continued to grow. The 1990-94 pattern had been reinstated. The development loans granted since 1995 were not used to finance the country’s economic and social development. Outside money had again been diverted into financing a military buildup, this time of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). And this build-up of the RPA occurred in the period immediately preceding the outbreak of civil war in former Zaire.

Civil War in the Congo

Following the installation of a US client regime in Rwanda in 1994, US trained Rwandan and Ugandan forces intervened in former Zaire –a stronghold of French and Belgian influence under President Mobutu Sese Seko. Amply documented, US special operations troops — mainly Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C.– had been actively training the RPA. This program was a continuation of the covert support and military aid provided to the RPA prior to 1994. In turn, the tragic outcome of the Rwandan civil war including the refugee crisis had set the stage for the participation of Ugandan and Rwandan RPA in the civil war in the Congo:

“Washington pumped military aid into Kagame’s army, and U.S. Army Special Forces and other military personnel trained hundreds of Rwandan troops. But Kagame and his colleagues had designs of their own. While the Green Berets trained the Rwandan Patriotic Army, that army was itself secretly training Zairian rebels.… [In] Rwanda, U.S. officials publicly portrayed their engagement with the army as almost entirely devoted to human rights training. But the Special Forces exercises also covered other areas, including combat skills… Hundreds of soldiers and officers were enrolled in U.S. training programs, both in Rwanda and in the United States… [C]onducted by U.S. Special Forces, Rwandans studied camouflage techniques, small-unit movement, troop-leading procedures, soldier-team development, [etc]… And while the training went on, U.S. officials were meeting regularly with Kagame and other senior Rwandan leaders to discuss the continuing military threat faced by the [former Rwandan] government [in exile] from inside Zaire… Clearly, the focus of Rwandan-U.S. military discussion had shifted from how to build human rights to how to combat an insurgency… With [Ugandan President] Museveni’s support, Kagame conceived a plan to back a rebel movement in eastern Zaire [headed by Laurent Desire Kabila] … The operation was launched in October 1996, just a few weeks after Kagame’s trip to Washington and the completion of the Special Forces training mission… Once the war [in the Congo] started, the United States provided “political assistance” to Rwanda,… An official of the U.S. Embassy in Kigali traveled to eastern Zaire numerous times to liaise with Kabila. Soon, the rebels had moved on. Brushing off the Zairian army with the help of the Rwandan forces, they marched through Africa’s third-largest nation in seven months, with only a few significant military engagements. Mobutu fled the capital, Kinshasa, in May 1997, and Kabila took power, changing the name of the country to Congo…U.S. officials deny that there were any U.S. military personnel with Rwandan troops in Zaire during the war, although unconfirmed reports of a U.S. advisory presence have circulated in the region since the war’s earliest days.39

American Mining Interests

At stake in these military operations in the Congo were the extensive mining resources of Eastern and Southern Zaire including strategic reserves of cobalt — of crucial importance for the US defense industry. During the civil war several months before the downfall of Mobutu, Laurent Desire Kabila based in Goma, Eastern Zaire had renegotiated the mining contracts with several US and British mining companies including American Mineral Fields (AMF), a company headquartered in President Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Arkansas.40

Meanwhile back in Washington, IMF officials were busy reviewing Zaire’s macro-economic situation. No time was lost. The post-Mobutu economic agenda had already been decided upon. In a study released in April 1997 barely a month before President Mobutu Sese Seko fled the country, the IMF had recommended “halting currency issue completely and abruptly” as part of an economic recovery programme.41 And a few months later upon assuming power in Kinshasa, the new government of Laurent Kabila Desire was ordered by the IMF to freeze civil service wages with a view to “restoring macro-economic stability.” Eroded by hyperinflation, the average public sector wage had fallen to 30,000 new Zaires (NZ) a month, the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.42

The IMF’s demands were tantamount to maintaining the entire population in abysmal poverty. They precluded from the outset a meaningful post-war economic reconstruction, thereby contributing to fuelling the continuation of the Congolese civil war in which close to 2 million people have died.

Concluding Remarks

The civil war in Rwanda was a brutal struggle for political power between the Hutu-led Habyarimana government supported by France and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) backed financially and militarily by Washington. Ethnic rivalries were used deliberately in the pursuit of geopolitical objectives. Both the CIA and French intelligence were involved.

In the words of former Cooperation Minister Bernard Debré in the government of France’s Prime Minister Henri Balladur:

“What one forgets to say is that, if France was on one side, the Americans were on the other, arming the Ugandans, who armed the Tutsis. I don’t want to portray a showdown between the French and the Anglo-Saxons, but the truth must be told.” 43

In addition to military aid to the warring factions, the influx of development loans played an important role in “financing the conflict.” In other words, both the Ugandan and Rwanda external debts were diverted into supporting the military and paramilitary. Uganda’s external debt increased by more than 2 billion dollars, –i.e. at a significantly faster pace than that of Rwanda (an increase of approximately 250 million dollars from 1990 to 1994). In retrospect, the RPA — financed by US military aid and Uganda’s external debt– was much better equipped and trained than the Forces Armées du Rwanda (FAR) loyal to President Habyarimana. From the outset, the RPA had a definite military advantage over the FAR.

According to the testimony of Paul Mugabe, a former member of the RPF High Command Unit, Major General Paul Kagame had personally ordered the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane with a view to taking control of the country. He was fully aware that the assassination of Habyarimana would unleash “a genocide” against Tutsi civilians. RPA forces had been fully deployed in Kigali at the time the ethnic massacres took place and did not act to prevent it from happening:

The decision of Paul Kagame to shoot Pres. Habyarimana’s aircraft was the catalyst of an unprecedented drama in Rwandan history, and Major-General Paul Kagame took that decision with all awareness. Kagame’s ambition caused the extermination of all of our families: Tutsis, Hutus and Twas. We all lost. Kagame’s take-over took away the lives of a large number of Tutsis and caused the unnecessary exodus of millions of Hutus, many of whom were innocent under the hands of the genocide ringleaders. Some naive Rwandans proclaimed Kagame as their savior, but time has demonstrated that it was he who caused our suffering and misfortunes… Can Kagame explain to the Rwandan people why he sent Claude Dusaidi and Charles Muligande to New York and Washington to stop the UN military intervention which was supposed to be sent and protect the Rwandan people from the genocide? The reason behind avoiding that military intervention was to allow the RPF leadership the takeover of the Kigali Government and to show the world that they – the RPF – were the ones who stopped the genocide. We will all remember that the genocide occurred during three months, even though Kagame has said that he was capable of stopping it the first week after the aircraft crash. Can Major-General Paul Kagame explain why he asked to MINUAR to leave Rwandan soil within hours while the UN was examining the possibility of increasing its troops in Rwanda in order to stop the genocide?44

Paul Mugabe’s testimony regarding the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane ordered by Kagame is corroborated by intelligence documents and information presented to the French parliamentary inquiry. Major General Paul Kagame was an instrument of Washington. The loss of African lives did not matter. The civil war in Rwanda and the ethnic massacres were an integral part of US foreign policy, carefully staged in accordance with precise strategic and economic objectives.

Despite the good diplomatic relations between Paris and Washington and the apparent unity of the Western military alliance, it was an undeclared war between France and America. By supporting the build up of Ugandan and Rwandan forces and by directly intervening in the Congolese civil war, Washington also bears a direct responsibility for the ethnic massacres committed in the Eastern Congo including several hundred thousand people who died in refugee camps.

US policy-makers were fully aware that a catastrophe was imminent. In fact four months before the genocide, the CIA had warned the US State Department in a confidential brief that the Arusha Accords would fail and “that if hostilities resumed, then upward of half a million people would die”. 45 This information was withheld from the United Nations: “it was not until the genocide was over that information was passed to Maj.-Gen. Dallaire [who was in charge of UN forces in Rwanda].” 46

Washington’s objective was to displace France, discredit the French government (which had supported the Habyarimana regime) and install an Anglo-American protectorate in Rwanda under Major General Paul Kagame. Washington deliberately did nothing to prevent the ethnic massacres.

When a UN force was put forth, Major General Paul Kagame sought to delay its implementation stating that he would only accept a peacekeeping force once the RPA was in control of Kigali. Kagame “feared [that] the proposed United Nations force of more than 5,000 troops… [might] intervene to deprive them [the RPA] of victory”.47 Meanwhile the Security Council after deliberation and a report from Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali decided to postpone its intervention.

original

The 1994 Rwandan “genocide” served strictly strategic and geopolitical objectives. The ethnic massacres were a stumbling blow to France’s credibility which enabled the US to establish a neocolonial foothold in Central Africa. From a distinctly Franco-Belgian colonial setting, the Rwandan capital Kigali has become –under the expatriate Tutsi led RPF government– distinctly Anglo-American. English has become the dominant language in government and the private sector. Many private businesses owned by Hutus were taken over in 1994 by returning Tutsi expatriates. The latter had been exiled in Anglophone Africa, the US and Britain.

The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) functions in English and Kinyarwanda, the University previously linked to France and Belgium functions in English. While English had become an official language alongside French and Kinyarwanda, French political and cultural influence will eventually be erased. Washington has become the new colonial master of a francophone country.

Several other francophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have entered into military cooperation agreements with the US. These countries are slated by Washington to follow suit on the pattern set in Rwanda. Meanwhile in francophone West Africa, the US dollar is rapidly displacing the CFA Franc — which is linked in a currency board arrangement to the French Treasury.

Notes (Endnote numbering as in the original chapter)

  1. Africa Direct, Submission to the UN Tribunal on Rwanda, http://www.junius.co.uk/africa- direct/tribunal.html Ibid.
  2. Africa’s New Look, Jane’s Foreign Report, August 14, 1997.
  3. Jim Mugunga, Uganda foreign debt hits Shs 4 trillion, The Monitor, Kampala, 19 February 1997.
  4. Michel Chossudovsky and Pierre Galand, L’usage de la dette exterieure du Rwanda, la responsabilité des créanciers, mission report, United Nations Development Program and Government of Rwanda, Ottawa and Brussels, 1997.
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. ibid, the imports recorded were of the order of kg. 500.000 of machetes or approximately one million machetes.
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid. See also schedule 1.2 of the Development Credit Agreement with IDA, Washington, 27 June 1991, CREDIT IDA 2271 RW.
  10. Chossudovsky and Galand, op cit
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. World Bank completion report, quoted in Chossudovsky and Galand, op cit.
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. See World Bank, Rwanda at http://www.worldbank.org/afr/rw2.htm.
  17. Ibid, italics added
  18. A ceiling on the number of public employees had been set at 38,000 for 1998 down from 40,600 in 1997. See Letter of Intent of the Government of Rwanda including cover letter addressed to IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, IMF, Washington, http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/060498.htm , 1998.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Lynne Duke Africans Use US Military Training in Unexpected Ways, Washington Post. July 14, 1998; p.A01.
  21. Musengwa Kayaya, U.S. Company To Invest in Zaire, Pan African News, 9 May 1997.
  22. International Monetary Fund, Zaire Hyperinflation 1990-1996, Washington, April 1997.
  23. Alain Shungu Ngongo, Zaire-Economy: How to Survive On a Dollar a Month, International Press Service, 6 June 1996.
  24. Quoted in Therese LeClerc. “Who is responsible for the genocide in Rwanda?”, World Socialist website at http://www.wsws.org/index.shtml , 29 April 1998.
  25. Paul Mugabe, The Shooting Down Of The Aircraft Carrying Rwandan President Habyarimama , testimony to the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA), Alexandria, Virginia, 24 April 2000.
  26. Linda Melvern, Betrayal of the Century, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, 8 April 2000.
  27. Ibid
  28. Scott Peterson, Peacekeepers will not halt carnage, say Rwanda, rebels, Daily Telegraph, London, May 12, 1994.

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Why ‘Jewish state’ demand is a non-starter

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If Washington accepts new Israeli demands, it moves the goal posts further away from a middle ground for a just peace.

Israel is demanding that Palestinians recognise it as a ‘Jewish state’ [AFP]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands Palestinians recognise Israel as “a Jewish state” and US President Barack Obama, who used this language in his state of the union address, signalled US support for this position. This is disastrous for the prospects for peace and not something the Palestinians can or should ever accept. Here is why.

First, the PLO accepted the Israeli demand to recognise the State of Israel decades ago and Israel never reciprocated with recognition of the State of Palestine or its right to exist. Now, while still denying self-determination to Palestinians, Israel demands recognition “as a Jewish state” not from the world but only from Palestinians. Israel does not want to formally change its name to “the Jewish State of Israel” which would allow it to join an elite group of theocracies like the Islamic Republic of Iran. It only wants Palestinians to accept it as such. Why?

Second, this demand adds insult to injury. The ostensibly pragmatic land-for-peace approach is one that says the parties will never agree on a historical narrative and must look to the future instead. But the Jewish state demand undercuts this and demands Palestinians accept the Israeli narrative that securing Jewish majoritarianism in Palestine was morally justified even if it necessitated destroying Palestinian society and created masses of Palestinian refugees. Asking Palestinians to make a deal that focuses on the future is one thing, but asking them to accept the crimes committed against them is another altogether. It is unbecoming of a party that claims to want a just peace.

Recognition of a ‘Jewish state’ by Palestinians and by extension the US and the rest of the world that accepts agreements on such terms would not only lend credibility to past measures to maintain a Jewish majority but it will also enable future ones.

 

Third, recognition of a “Jewish state” by Palestinians and by extension the US and the rest of the world that would accept agreements on such terms, would not only lend credibility to past measures to maintain a Jewish majority but it will also enable future ones. This directly imperils Palestinian citizens of Israel, like myself, living in the “Jewish state” as non-Jews.

It is conceivable that a state recognised by Palestinians as Jewish may soon say to its Palestinian citizens: “Go to the Palestinian state, that is where you belong,” discriminate against them further, or engage in ethnic cleansing. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman already openly advocates such policies today. To recognise Israel as a Jewish state would only give license to further efforts of marginalising or removing this population with the goal of maintaining Jewish majoritarianism.

A magical use of language would not sufficiently wed recognition of a Jewish state with the principle of safeguarding the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Every Palestinian recalls that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established London’s support for Zionism, noted that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. This did little to prevent the Nakba which followed as Zionism’s goal materialised.

As the Israeli historian Benny Morris said, “A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore, it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population.” Legitimising the pursuit of Jewish majoritarianism ad infinitum opens the door to future actions like this.

Fourth, this is an entirely new demand from the Israeli side that did not exist a few years ago. Today, the Israelis present it as a deal breaker. That the Americans allow this is a significant problem. When Washington accepts new Israeli demands, Israel moves the goal posts further away from a middle ground where a just peace can be made. Making matters worse is that while Washington accepts new Israeli demands, it also fails to enforce Israeli obligations. The Road Map, which called for a settlement freeze, was never enforced. This allows Israel to have its cake, eat it, and then demand even more cake. Little more than the crumbs are left for Palestinians.

No Israeli politician has pushed this issue as strongly domestically and internationally as Netanyahu. He has created resonance in Israeli public opinion and argues now that his hands are tied on this matter.

The truth is, the main reason Netanyahu makes this demand is that he knows the Palestinians cannot accept it for all of the above reasons. Yet, he makes it, knowing it will be met with sympathy in Washington and put the Palestinians in the position of looking like rejectionists. This way, he aims to put a stop to any negotiations that would lead to an end to Israeli occupation.

Palestinians shouldn’t stand for this, neither should anyone else.

 

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Diseases rise among besieged Palestinians in Syria

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From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article by Mutawalli Abou Nasser was published by Electronic Intifada on 3 April 2014.

“Diseases rise among besieged Palestinians in Syria

For just that moment, the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp in Damascus made news. After months of facing starvation and death in the shadows of the Syrian civil war came packets of food and aid in January — with cameras in tow.

The refugees poured out on the streets in a river of desperation to claim the first deliveries of aid that made it into the besieged area. Grown men were reduced to tears as their terror and isolation were momentarily broken.

But the camera crews have since moved on, and hunger, violence and disease have returned to torment the people stuck in the camp.

Yarmouk camp in Damascus used to host the largest community of Palestinians living in Syria. They had to leave their homeland because of Israel’s ethnic cleansing in 1948 and then 1967. It was a flourishing and vibrant neighborhood in the capital, home to more than 100,000 people.

By late 2012 the camp became embroiled in the increasingly malignant conflict, and it has suffered for it. Rebels have been engaged in long and bloody battles with the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Fragile truce

Yarmouk has faced siege tactics, indiscriminate bombardment and sniper fire, as have other neighborhoods. The tactics seem to have been to subdue whole populations. They seem to have succeeded.

Rebels in many of the besieged areas, including Yarmouk, entered into fragile truce with government forces and their allied militias earlier in the year. A string of local agreements were brokered to put the fighting on hold and to allow food and medicine in and civilians out.

The escape from siege and warfare in January was as brief as it was desperate. “UNRWA [the UN agency for Palestine refugees] remains deeply concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in Yarmouk and the fact that repeated resort to armed force has disrupted its efforts to alleviate the desperate plight of civilians,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said in a 22 March statement.

Until recently, resourceful volunteers had been working to maintain some rudimentary education system for the children and adolescents trapped in the camp. Working without institutional support, they were doing what they could to ensure the conflict would not leave a lost generation in its wake.

Healthcare collapse

Now, the teachers and volunteers have had to close the classrooms. It’s not just bombs and snipers that have put a stop to their work, but disease. The collapse of the healthcare system, chronic shortages of food and clean water and accumulation of waste combine to give rise to a number of health epidemics.

“One of our students fell unconscious in class; we took him to hospital and they diagnosed him with hepatitis,” Dr. Khalil Khalil, a founding teacher in a makeshift school project within the camp, said. “We then had all of our students tested and found at least seven other cases. The spread of this and other contagious diseases means a decision has been made to stop convening the classes.”

Making all this worse, fighting has erupted again. “The recent truce failed and the amount of vaccines and medication that made it into the camp were nowhere near sufficient to treat the plethora of diseases and illnesses we see spreading through the camp, especially among children,” Wissam al-Ghoul, community health worker at the local Palestine Hospital, said.

Fighters from both sides used the insufficient quantities of aid that did make it into the camp for their own purposes.

“Members of the security services at the checkpoints seized some of the aid to distribute among their people, and rebel fighters stole some of the aid for their families and people close to them,” said food aid organizer Abou Salmi. “There is no order, and we suffer for that.”

Approximately 7,000 parcels of aid are believed to have made it through the blockade in January. UNRWA concedes this was a “drop in the ocean” for the almost 20,000 people who remain trapped in the camp.

In the spell when the siege was lifted, government forces and the Palestinian factions allied to them kidnapped many whom they suspected of supporting the rebels. Those picked up included children.

Kidnappings

At least thirty men and adolescents have been detained and their whereabouts remain unknown.

“Members of the Syrian security services, along with their allies from the PFLP-GC [the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command] detained at least ten young men in front of my own eyes … We also know of people being lured to outlying buildings, and they were then kidnapped and whisked away,” said an UNRWA staff member who was among the team that oversaw the food aid. She asked not to be named for security reasons.

Each side blames the other for the breakdown in the ceasefire. “The regime did not release any of the detainees it had promised to or secure the safe passage of food,” said Abu Khitaab from the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra.

“We pulled out of the camp fully as agreed but instead of releasing prisoners the regime began kidnapping young students and activists and to occupy some buildings inside the camp. We could not tolerate this, so we moved back in and resumed the battle.”

Regardless of who carries the responsibility for breaking the deal on which the ceasefire was built, for the innocent within Yarmouk the reality has returned to the same difficulties — a steady descent back into virtual imprisonment, and the chaos of fighting. Now, with disease added on.

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US: Stop Blocking Palestinian Rights

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The US government should support rather than oppose Palestinian actions to join international treaties that promote respect for human rights.

On April 1, 2014, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, signed accession instruments for 15 treaties, including the core treaties on human rights and the laws of war. On April 2, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, testified in front of Congress, that in response to the “new Palestinian actions” that the “solemn commitment” by the US to “stand with Israel,” “extends to our firm opposition to any and all unilateral [Palestinian] actions in the international arena.”

“It is disturbing that the Obama administration, which already has a record of resisting international accountability for Israeli rights abuses, would also oppose steps to adopt treaties requiring Palestinian authorities to uphold human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The US should press both the Palestinians and the Israelis to better abide by international human rights standards.”

Palestine’s adoption of human rights and laws-of-war treaties would not cause any change in Israel’s international legal obligations.

Abbas signed letters of accession to core human rights treaties including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the conventions on the rights of the child; the elimination of discrimination against women; and against torture, apartheid, and genocide. Abbas also signed requests for Palestine to accede to treaties on the laws of war, including the Hague Regulations of 1907, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their first additional protocol.

The human rights treaties he signed would impose obligations on the Palestinian government to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of people under their authority and effective control. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was not eligible to sign human rights treaties but its officials had repeatedly pledged to uphold human rights norms. Human Rights Watch has documented serious abuses by Palestinian security forces, including torture, arbitrary arrest, and the suppression of free speech and assembly.

Ratification of the Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions would strengthen the obligations of Palestinian forces to abide by international rules on armed conflict. Palestinian armed groups are already obliged by customary international law on armed conflict, including prohibitions on targeting civilians and on carrying out attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants. Armed groups in Gaza, which operate outside the authority or effective control of the Palestinian leadership that signed the treaties, have committed war crimes by launching indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli population centers.

Abbas signed the treaties for the state of Palestine, which the UN General Assembly granted non-member observer state status in 2012.

The US appears to oppose Palestine joining human rights treaties in part because it is afraid they will gain greater support for Palestinian statehood outside the framework of negotiations with Israel. According to Power’s testimony to a congressional subcommitteeon April 2, the US has “a monthly meeting with the Israelis” to coordinate responses to possible Palestinian actions at the UN, which the US is concerned could upset peace negotiations. Power said that the US had been “fighting on every front” before peace negotiations restarted in 2013 to prevent such Palestinian actions. Discussing US legislation that bars US funding from UN agencies that accept Palestine as a member, Power noted, “The spirit behind the legislation is to deter Palestinian action [at the UN], that is what we do all the time and that is what we will continue to do.”

The US may also fear that the Palestinian moves are only a first step towards joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Abbas did not sign the Rome Statute of the ICC, which would allow the court to have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in Palestine or by Palestinians. Power, in her remarks, said that the US is “absolutely adamant” that Palestine should not join the ICC because it “really poses a profound threat to Israel” and would be “devastating to the peace process.”

In either case, the US is mistaken to oppose a step that might lead to greater respect for rights, which could help create a better environment for peace negotiations, Human Rights Watch said.

“The US should stop allowing its separate concerns to stand in the way of a step that could enhance Palestinian authorities’ and armed groups’ respect for basic rights,” Stork said. “The US made the wrong decision to oppose greater rights protections.”

On April 1, the day Abbas signed the accession instruments for the treaties, Israel reissued tenders for the construction of 708 settlement housing units in the Israeli settlement of Gilo, while Israeli forces demolished 32 Palestinian-owned homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank, forcibly displacing 60 people, according to data collected by Ir Amim, an Israeli civil society group, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Under the Geneva Conventions and the ICC statute, settlement construction and the deliberate forcible transfer of civilians from their homes and communities in occupied territory are war crimes.

Israel has ratified core human rights treaties but officially claims that its rights obligations do not extend to Palestinians in the territory it occupies, where it says the laws of armed conflict apply exclusively. UN rights bodies have completely rejected this argument on the basis that an occupying power’s human rights obligations extend to people living under its effective control. Israel additionally claims, also in the face of nearly universal rejection, that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits transferring its civilian population into occupied territory, does not apply to its settlements in the West Bank.

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Journalists Under Fire in I$raHell and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

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Multiple journalists have been assaulted, threatened, and censored in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in recent months.

Israeli security forces on March 16, 2014, detained Fedaa Nasr, a correspondent for Palestine Today TV, for several hours and interrogated her, the reports said. Nasr had been reporting on the Jewish celebration Purim in Hebron when she was accosted by a group of Jewish settlers, according to news reports. The settlers, in turn, accused Nasr of assaulting them. Hebron, located in the West Bank, is often the scene of contentious clashes between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers.

On March 16, 2014, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) news agency WAFAannounced that it was calling off an investigation into Jaffar Sadaqa, one of its journalists. On February 11, 2014, Sadaqa wrote an article in which he alleged that the true budget deficit was larger than that suggested by the Ministry of Finance and cited leaked documents. Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said the report was “full of inaccurate information and erroneous analysis.”

WAFA denied that the investigation originated from the minister’s complaint and dropped the investigation after facing significant pressure by Palestinian journalists, who organized protests in support of Sadaqa.

On March 11, 2014, several journalists were prevented from covering protests and clashes in the region. Freelance journalist Mustafa Bader told CPJ that he and several other journalists were covering clashes in Bethlehem when an Israeli soldier fired a live round in their direction. A second journalist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ the soldier was sending a clear warning to the journalists when he fired at the large garbage bin behind which the journalists were standing.

On the same day, in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces assaulted two journalists filming a protest near Damascus Gate, according to The Associated Press and the Foreign Press Association. The reports said an AP photographer was punched in the face and suffered a bloody nose. A Reuters cameraman was also hit by a rubber bullet and had his camera smashed by a police officer. The reports did not name the journalists.

On March 7, 2014, a Palestinian photographer working for Agence France-Presse was assaulted by settlers while heading to cover Palestinian protests in a refugee camp north of Ramallah, news reports said. According to the reports, Israeli security forces stood by as the settlers threw rocks at Abbas Momani, cracking his car’s windshield and causing light injuries to his hands and face. Momani said he would file a complaint with the police against his assailants. The French Foreign Ministry released a statement after the attack, calling on the Israeli government to “prosecute those responsible.”

Anatolia photographer Maath Misha’al and freelance photographer Abdalkarim Museitefwere also assaulted by the settlers while they were filming the protests, according to the Palestinian press freedom group MADA. Misha’al told MADA that the settlers beat him and pointed a gun at him before the Israeli army moved the settlers away. A photographtaken at the time shows four settlers running, three of them armed with handguns. Misha’al also told MADA that the Israeli police called him and asked for a copy of his footage to help hold the assailants accountable.

On February 28, 2014, a group of journalists covering clashes in East Jerusalem were confronted by Israeli security officers in plainclothes. A picture captured by AFP’s Ahmed Gharabli shows the officer pointing his handgun directly at the journalist from only meters away as other journalists photographed the scene. A Reuters photographer also captured the same scene from the opposite angle, showing several journalists, including Gharabli, simultaneously taking pictures and cowering before the security agent.

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Apathy in Ramallah as negotiations with I$raHell dive

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As negotiations between Israeli and Palestinians leaders reach a crisis, in Ramallah, the urban reprieve and seat of President Mahmoud Abbas’s government, the breakdown passes with much apathy. Indeed, the nine months of direct talks are leaning to disaster, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stalled the release of a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners, and Palestinian President Abbas sent letters to join international treaties—a move the Israel view as unilateralism and a red line.

“For me, it makes no difference,” said Dr. Abdallah Shararah, 59, a pediatrician and the dean of a medical school in Ramallah, “because after 20 years of negotiations nothing was achieved of the national goals of the Palestinian people.” Dr. Abdallah, as his friends call him, took time out of a backgammon game to speak with me inside of the bustling Ramallah Café, a hub for Palestinian artists and intellectuals. The two-floor smoke shop is humbly decorated with Madrid and Barcelona soccer flags strung to the ceiling, crates of soda and Cappy—an Israeli version of Minute Maid juice—weathered books and academic journals, and a few “boycott Israeli goods” stickers slap dashed to the backs and underneaths of things.

“And,” continued Dr. Abdallah, “I don’t think the United States is a neutral sponsor for these negotiations. They are biased for the Israeli occupation.”

Dr. Abdallah went on to explain that irrespective of whether the negotiations fall apart this week, or succeed to form a “framework” for future discussions, the Israeli occupation cannot be removed through bilateral talks. And he finds, “talks” are the extent of an Israeli commitment.

“Negotiations are a means of continuation of occupation and delay as much as possible the achievement of the Palestinian goals, which gives Israel the chance to change realities on the ground.” By realities on the ground, Dr. Abdallah was referring to the 130% increase in settler construction during the peace talks, rendering the much awaited return to the table a difficult moment for Palestinian society.

He continued, “Political goals and negotiations are dictated by the balance of power on the ground. And it’s obvious that the Israelis have the upper hand and are supported by the biggest powers, the greatest power the United States, and at the same time I believe that no occupation can end without resistance. As well the occupier are not paying a price, the Israelis are not paying the price of the occupation. They are benefiting from it.”

Seated with Dr. Abdallah underneath a television that played a black and white Egyptian film that no one was watching was George Khleifi, 67, a film producer and director from Nazareth living in Ramallah.

“I was one-year old when Israel was declared,” he said half in jest. George, unlike Dr. Abdallah, does think the Palestinians have much to lose from negotiating with Israel, but out of fatalism or perhaps exhaustion, he too was not terribly concerned.

“To continue the negotiations without a real will to arrive at a solution from the Israeli side is useless. Not only useless, it can harm, because Israel under so-called negotiations,” George explained, “continues the large settlements, creates new settlements, and creates facts in Jerusalem that makes any acceptable solution for the Palestinians, the solution for two-states, impossible.

“Why give them a kind of legitimate umbrella with those negotiations?” George lamented, “That ‘s what most people here believe.”

Still if negotiations implode, George thinks ultimately it will have political reverberations and force the one-state option, and by logical extension, the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

“Of course, the only solution of what remains is the solution of one state. It will be a fact that Israel will control the whole territory that was supposed to be two-states.”

What will remain, said George, is, “one apartheid state: one state for two peoples where one has all of the rights, the Israelis, and one has none of the rights, the Palestinians.”

“I hope that they, the Israelis, will be logical and will understand that they don’t want the one-state but they are doing everything to make it happen,” concluded George.

And to the Palestinian leadership, the Ramallah street is a town apart from the motorcade of officials that zip in and out of the Muqataa and take lunch at the American Colony Hotel on special governmental “visas” to Israel.

“Our problem as Palestinians is the widening gap between the people and the politicians,” said Dr. Abdallah. Motioning at the others in the café, he said, “they are professionals, artists and writers. Drama, theater, cinema—and these people they know they have a mission for society. Change in their society and they are the people who carry the banner of hope when politicians fail.

“Simply there is an overall frustration,” said Dr. Abdallah before returning to his board game, “There are people who are benefiting from this situation and it’s not in their interest to change. They,” he said, “have common interest with the Israelis.”

But Dr. Abdallah warned that his society should not be brash and boot out the exiting leadership that keeps returning for more and more peace talks, such as with Gaza and the 2005 government sweep. “Electing Hamas,” he said was “uncalculated, a kind of revenge,” against the ruling party Fatah for corruption and unachieved freedom.

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Kerry Urges End to Rancor in Effort to Save Mideast Talks

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AFP Photo / Jack Guez

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to put aside their rancor and work out a peace agreement after mediation efforts failed to resolve the conflict over a scheduled prisoner release.

“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” Kerry said today at the opening of a strategic dialogue with the Algerian government in Algiers. “The leaders need to lead.”

Palestinians retaliated for Israel’s failure to release 26 Palestinian prisoners yesterday by resuming efforts to win further international recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. They applied at the United Nations to join 15 international treaties and conventions, in a calibrated bid to protest the stalemate in U.S.-led peace efforts without risking a cutoff in American aid.

To get talks back on track and keep them going beyond the April 29 deadline Kerry set in July, Palestinians are demanding that Israel carry out the overdue release and free an additional 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said today.

Kerry said it was premature to judge that the talks had broken down, and said the fine print of the UN applications showed the Palestinians kept a door open. The Palestinians, who say they promised to suspend such efforts in exchange for the prisoner releases, didn’t seek status as a member-state at the world body or any of its agencies.
‘Leverage’ Tool

The Palestinians “may view this strategy as a tool in which they have a little bit of leverage,” an incremental step that “can increasingly put pressure on not only the Israelis but also the Americans,” Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington-based Palestine Center, said in an interview.

Abbas is also seeking support from the 22-member Arab League, which scheduled an emergency meeting for April 9 in Cairo to discuss Israel’s delay in releasing prisoners and the impact on continuing negotiations, the body’s president, Nabil el-Araby, said in a statement yesterday.

Under U.S. law, full statehood recognition before UN organizations would require a cutoff of about $300 million a year in American aid to the Palestinian Authority. Other laws bar U.S. funding for any UN organization that gives the Palestinians statehood rights, which in turn can lead to the suspension of U.S. voting rights for failure to pay dues.

During peace talks, Kerry has pressed Abbas to hold off on pursuing statehood goals at international agencies or filing complaints against Israel with the International Criminal Court.
‘First Shot’

“This is basically a first shot against Israel that ‘we are renewing the war, we are renewing the battlefield at the United Nations,’’ Einat Wilf, a former member of the Israeli Knesset told reporters yesterday on a conference call organized by the Israel Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. ‘‘It’s still not the heavy gun.’’

The Palestinian Authority gained the right to sign on to multilateral treaties after its status was elevated at the UN in November 2012 to an observer non-member state. It applied to organizations yesterday on behalf of the ‘‘State of Palestine,’’ a status that is under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians in the talks over a two-state solution.

The list of treaties and conventions submitted yesterday didn’t include the Rome Statute, which would let Palestinians take cases against Israelis to the international court on allegations that the Israeli military committed war crimes.
Still Talking

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met together overnight until 4 a.m. with the U.S. mediating team in Jerusalem, Kerry said, adding that he plans to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today. ‘‘Neither side can achieve what is wants staying away from the negotiating table,’’ he said.

The latest hurdles provided a new reminder that a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians remains a distant hope.

Israel agreed last year to free 104 Palestinian security prisoners in four installments, and missed the deadline for the final releases this week. Israeli officials said they were concerned that Palestinians would break off talks immediately after. Netanyahu told ministers that Israel won’t free the last prisoners unless it’s clearly getting something in return, Army Radio reported on March 30.
‘Basic Rights’

The Palestinians aren’t breaking their commitment to the talks by applying to join multilateral treaties and the conventions, which ‘‘will help to protect and promote basic rights of the Palestinian people,” the Palestine Liberation Organization said on its website.

“The State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions” because Israel failed to meet its commitment to release Palestinian prisoners, the PLO said, adding that the Palestinians remain committed to continue negotiations until April 29.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said at a Passover season event that “Israel has done all that it can to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and the ball is now in their court.”

“If Palestinians want, they will join,” he said of the applications to international bodies, according to Israel Radio. “If they don’t want, then they won’t join.” 

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In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King

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Vantage Point | Articles and Essays by Dr. Ron Daniels

dr_mlk

In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King

Can We Make It to the “Promised Land?”

King delivered his last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3, 1968 – Click here for audio

April 4th will be forty-six years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a balcony in Memphis. Black America and people of goodwill in the nation and the world were stricken by grief, frustration and anger at the murder of this great man of justice and peace. Indeed, rebellions erupted in urban centers across the nation by people who could not fathom how an apostle of non-violence could be struck down so viciously and violently. It was clear that America was at yet another cross-road in the quest to achieve racial, economic and social justice.

Despite constant death threats, Dr. King never flinched in his determination that this nation should be made to live up to its creed. The night before he was murdered, he reluctantly mounted the podium at the Mason Temple  Church in Memphis to once again urge his multitude of followers to remain hopeful, faithful and encouraged. He seemed to have a premonition of his demise, and yet he stared death in the face and proclaimed that he was not afraid. In the most memorable part of his oration he took the audience to the “mountaintop” with him and declared that he had “seen the promised land.”  Sensing that his life would be cut short he said, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

As we reflect on King’s courage and optimism in the shadow of death, the question is can we make it to the Promised Land. Clearly Dr. King was speaking to the long suffering sons and daughters of Africa in America when he referenced “we as a people,” but given his fervent belief in the promise of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, there is little doubt that he also believed that one day America as a nation must arrive at the Promised Land. King also knew that for the “promise” to be realized Black people and people of good will in the “beloved community” would have to struggle to achieve its fulfillment. There would be trials and tribulations because there were forces deeply committed to restricting economic and political democracy to an elite “few” to the exclusion of the “many” in this society.

As King peered over into the Promised Land, he saw a nation which embraced his concept of an Economic Bill of Rightsmodeled after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” where every human being would have a decent standard of living: a land where no-one would lack for a job with a living wage or guaranteed annual income, quality affordable housing, healthcare and education.  But, to get to the Promised Land, King was preparing a Poor People’s Campaign to galvanize the “many” to struggle for an Economic Bill of Rights even in the face of the fierce resistance of the “few” at the commanding heights of capital and finance.

To get to the Promised Land, King also warned that the people, those who aspired to create the change must themselves undergo a change, a personal “revolution” that would translate into creating a just and humane society. Hence he proclaimed, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

The people must create a “moral movement” to get to the Promised Land and that movement cannot countenance a system incompatible with “person-oriented” values.  Therefore, those who would get to the Promised Land must challenge and change systems of oppression and exploitation; they must advance a politics of social transformation.  As King put it, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that the edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

As we witness the calculated, mean-spirited assault on Blacks, labor, women and poor and working people by rightwing extremists, the explosive growth in mass incarceration within the prison-jail industrial complex and the ever increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, we must continue to be inspired by King’s view from the mountaintop. Black people in particular must be dedicated to leading ourselves and the downtrodden/dispossessed to the Promised Land.

The Moral Monday Movement led by Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP embodies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the Promised Land and the road we must trod to get there.  If King could stare death in the face and still keep his eye on the prize, then we desecrate his memory and violate his spirit if we shrink in the face of the current roadblocks and obstacles to the Promised Land.  Too many or our ancestors suffered, struggled, bled, triumphed and passed the baton for this generation to succumb to hopelessness, apathy and indifference in the midst of a State of Emergency in America’s “dark ghettos” – and the extremists’ immoral assault on poor and working people.

As we memorialize the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, let us remember him on the mountaintop, looking over into the Promised Land, knowing that he would not get there, but courageously exhorting and inspiring us to continue the arduous but ultimately rewarding journey toward full freedom.  We may not get there in our lifetime but King’s message from the mountaintop was/is a clarion call for a cross – generational struggle for “a more perfect union” and the creation of the Promised Land.  Our people and the  “beloved community,” will overcome some day!

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Assad There to Stay?

NOVANEWS

CounterPunch

How the US Campaign for “Regime Change” in Syria Became a Magnet for International Terrorism

Long gone the days when the U.S.-led so-called “Friends of Syria” could plausibly claim that two thirds of Syria was controlled by rebel forces, that Syrian capital Damascus was under siege and its fall was just a matter of time and that the days of President Bashar al-Assad were numbered and accordingly he “should step down.”

The war on Syria has taken a U-turn during the past year. Assad now firmly holds the military initiative. The long awaited foreign military intervention could not take off; it was prevented by the emerging multi-polar world order. Syrian and non-Syrian insurgents are now on the run. Assad stands there to stay.

The thinly veiled UN legitimacy, which was used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya under the pretexts of the responsibility to protect on humanitarian grounds, failed to impose no-fly zones, humanitarian corridors and other instruments of foreign intervention; they foundered on the borders of Syrian national sovereignty.

The official Syrian Arab Army (SAA), which was strategically organized and stationed to fight a regular war in defence against the Israeli occupying power in the western south of the country, was taken by surprise by an internationally and regionally coordinated unconventional attack on its soft civilian backyard where it had zero presence.

Within a relatively short period of time the SAA succeeded in containing the initial attack, in adapting trained units to unconventional guerrilla war in cities and in winning over the support of the civilian population, without acceding any ground of its defence vis-à-vis Israel.

Ever since, the SAA was gaining more ground, liberating more civilian centers from insurgent terrorists, closing more border crossing points used for infiltration of foreign fighters into the country, cutting of their supply lines and besieging pockets of their presence in inner old cities and in their isolated concentrations in the countryside. The capital Damascus, more than 95% of the common borders with Lebanon and the central heart of Syria around Homs are now secured. Except the northern city of Raqqa, no where in Syria the insurgents can claim exclusive control. The SAA is winning all its battles.

The declared goal now of the U.S., Saudi, Qatari and Turkish financial, military and logistical support for the insurgents is no more the “regime change,” but creating a balance of power aimed at improving their standing in future negotiations with the regime. To do so, they claim they are extending their support to what they describe as the “moderate” insurgents.

However, “moderate” rebels are a rare species in Syrian insurgency. Entering its fourth year now, the war on Syria has created a highly polarized war zone that has left no room for any moderates. Combatants are fighting now to death in a battle of life or death.

The fighting lines are strictly drawn between homeland defence and foreign intervention, between national forces and international terrorists and between an existing secular and civil state and a future state perceived to be governed by an extremist or, at the best, a moderate version of Islamist ideology supported by the most backward, tribal and undemocratic regional states with similar sectarian ideologies.

During his testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on last September 3, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the “moderate” Syrian rebels are infiltrated by the al-Qaeda terrorists as “basically not true.”

The Syrian “opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria,” Kerry testified.

However, hard facts on the ground in Syria as well as statements by other U.S. high ranking officials challenge Kerry’s testimony as a politically motivated, far from truth and misleading statement.

Last March, General David Rodriguez, head of the U.S. Africa Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that “Syria has become a significant location for al-Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit, train, and equip extremists.”

The previous month, James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, called Syria a “huge magnet” for Islamic extremists in testimony prepared for the Senate intelligence committee.

Last January, Clapper also told a Senate intelligence hearing that “training complexes” for foreign fighters were spotted in Syria and chair of the Senate intelligence committee Dianne Feinstein described Syria as “the most notable new security threat in the year” since the committee’s last meeting.

Matthew Olsen, director of the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center, was on record to say that “Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world.”

Also on record was Jeh C. Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, who stated that the Syria war “has become a matter of homeland security,” former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell who identified Syria as “the greatest threat to U.S. national security,” FBI Director until last September Robert Mueller who “warned that an increasing flow of U.S. citizens heading to Syria and elsewhere to wage jihad against regional powers could end up in a new generation of home-grown terrorists.”

All these and other high level U.S. conclusions do not testify to the existence of “moderate” insurgents in Syria and vindicate the official Syrian narration as much as they refute Kerry’s statement about the “democratic,” “secular” and “moderate” Syrian “opposition.”

“Moderate” rebels are either marginal or a rare species in Syrian insurgency and if they do exist they are already increasingly concluding “reconciliation” agreements with the Syrian government, according to which they disarm, join the government anti terror and anti “strangers” military and security campaign or simply recurring to attending to their personal lives.

The Americans and their Saudi and Turkish bullies are left with the only option of artificially creating artificial “moderates,” whom they unrealistically and wishfully dream of turning into a credible leading force on the ground.

As part of his efforts to mend fences with Saudi Arabia, a persistent advocate of war and militarization in Syria, U.S. President Barak Obama seems to have pursued recently a two-pronged diplomatic and military policy.

Diplomatically, he closed the Syrian embassy and consulates in the United States and restricted the movement of the Syrian envoy to the United Nations as a “down payment” ahead of his visit to the kingdom on last March 28.

Militarily, he promised more arms to Syrian “moderate” rebels during his visit. After the visit he was reportedly considering arming those “moderate” rebels with more advanced weaponry, including anti-aircraft missiles or MANPADs.

While providing those “moderates” with MANPADs is yet to be confirmed, Israel’s Debkafile website on this April 7 reported that two moderate Syrian rebel militias – the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Revolutionary Front – have been supplied with advanced US weapons, including armour-piercing, optically-guided BGM-71 TOW missiles, which enter the Middle East for the first time. Images of rebels equipped with these arms have begun to circulate in recent days. Both militias are coordinating and cooperating with the al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, both listed as terrorist groups by the U.S., Saudi Arabia Syria and Iraq.

About Time for U.S. to Reconsider

Within this context, the existing CIA-led program in Jordan for training pre-approved “moderates” will reportedly be expanded to raise the number of trainees from one hundred to six hundred a month.

At this rate, according to Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Center in Qatar, writing on this April 3, “it would take close to two years to produce a force” that could numerically rival the extremist “Ahrar al-Sham” group and “it would take seven years” to create a force that could rival the extremist “Islamic Front,” let alone the mainstream groups of terrorist insurgents like the ISIS and the al-Nusra.

Going ahead with such a U.S.-Saudi training program in Jordan is tantamount to planning an extended war on Syria until such time that the regime changes or the country becomes a failed state, as the planners wishfully hope.

Moderate Syrian rebels are a U.S. mirage. With logistical vital help from Turkey, the Saudi and Qatari U.S. allies were determined to successfully militarize and hijack legitimate popular protests for change lest they sweep along their own people and spill over into their own territories.

It’s about time that the U.S. policy makers reconsider, deal with the facts on the ground in Syria and stop yielding to the bullying of their regional allies who continue to beat the drums of war only to survive the regional tidal wave of change.

To contain this tidal wave of change, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have sponsored an Islamist alternative as a counterrevolution. The Muslim Brotherhood International (MBI) was a version of this alternative. Unfortunately the U.S. got along with it. The MBI plan in Egypt has proved counterproductive. Its failure in Egypt pre-empted for good any hope for its success in Syria. The ensuing rift among the anti-Syria allies doomed the plan regionally.

President Assad’s statement on this April 7 that the “project of political Islam” has failed was not overoptimistic or premature. Neither was the statement of his ally, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, on the same day that “the phase of bringing down the regime or bringing down the (Syrian) state is over… They cannot overthrow the regime, but they can wage a war of attrition.”

The U.S. campaign for more than three years now for a “regime change” in Syria has created only a “huge magnet” for international terrorism, thanks to Saudi, Qatari and Turkish military, financial and logistical support.

Peaceful protesters were sidelined to oblivion. More than three years of bloodshed left no room for moderates. “Regime change” by force from outside the country, along the Iraqi and Libyan lines, has proved a failure. U.S. and western calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down is now a faint cry that can hardly be heard.

All world and regional indications as well as military developments on the ground refer to one fact: Assad is there to stay. Change will come only under his leadership or his guidance. Understanding with him is the only way to internal and regional stability. More or less he has succeeded in turning the “huge magnet” for international terrorists into their killing field. His final victory is only a matter of time. Arming rebels, “moderates” or terrorists regardless, will only perpetuate the Syrian people’s plight and fuel regional anti-Americanism.

The sooner the United States act on this fact is the better for all involved parties.

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