Archive | April 28th, 2014

Neo-Nazis march in Lvov ‘in honor’ of Ukrainian Waffen SS division (PHOTOS)

NOVANEWS
Ukrainian ultra-nationalists carry emblems of 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician" as they march in the center of the western city of Lviv on April 27, 2014 to mark the 71st anniversary of 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician" foundation.  (RIA Novosti)Ukrainian ultra-nationalists carry emblems of 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician” as they march in the center of the western city of Lviv on April 27, 2014 to mark the 71st anniversary of 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician” foundation. (RIA Novosti).

Hundreds took part in a march to mark the anniversary of the formation of the Ukrainian SS division, which fought for the Nazi’s against the Soviet Union during World War II, in the city of Lvov in the western Ukraine.

Around five hundred neo-Nazi supporters took to the streets in the center of the city on Sunday to celebrate the creation of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division ‘Galician’ on April 28, 1943.

Many of the participants wore embroidered national Ukrainian shirts and held SS Galician divisional insignias (a yellow lion and three crowns on a blue background) in their hands.

The demonstrators made their way from the monument to the Ukrainian nationalist icon of Stepan Bandera, and to the local cemetery where a memorial to the Galician soldiers is erected.

 

AFP Photo/Yuriy DyachyshynAFP Photo/Yuriy Dyachyshyn

Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which collaborated with Nazi Germany, and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews and Russians.

The action went on despite calls from the local administration to abstain from public gatherings on the day as it “may harm the unity of the country.”

Lviv 1943 (Top photo). AFP Photo/Yuriy DyachyshynLviv 1943 (Top photo). AFP Photo/Yuriy Dyachyshyn

The march was staged by ‘Native Land’ and ‘Student Brotherhood of Stepan Bandera’ – radical organizations, supported by local motorcycle enthusiasts.

 

AFP Photo/Yuriy DyachyshynAFP Photo/Yuriy Dyachyshyn

Despite the organizers promising that the rally would be a silent one, there were a lot of nationalist chants heard in Lvov.

However, slogans like – “SS Galician Division!” “People of Lvov are the strongest!” “Glory to the nation – death to enemies!” and “Bandera and Shukhevich are heroes of Ukraine!” – weren’t welcomed by many of the city’s residents, the UNIAN news agency reports.

It resulted in the route of the march being shortened and the organizers apologizing to those who were offended by the chants.

RIA NovostiRIA Novosti

Around two hundred policemen provided security during the march, which proceeded without serious violations of public order.

None of the actual participants of the SS Galician Division were noticed taking part in the action, RIA-Novosti reports.

The Nazi occupational forces picked the SS Galician Division from volunteers in western Ukraine in order to tackle Soviet and Polish partisans.

RIA NovostiRIA Novosti

The military formation, which became well-known for its ferocity, existed for over a year before being crushed by the Red Army in July 1944.

During the Nuremberg trials, all those who were officially acknowledged as SS members were labeled war criminals, and the Nazi organization itself was banned.

An man (L) argues with an ultra-nationalist march participant (C) during a rally in the center of the western city of Lviv on April 27, 2014 to mark the 71st anniversary of 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician" foundation. (AFP Photo/Yuriy Dyachyshyn)An man (L) argues with an ultra-nationalist march participant (C) during a rally in the center of the western city of Lviv on April 27, 2014 to mark the 71st anniversary of 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician” foundation. (AFP Photo/Yuriy Dyachyshyn)

 

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Interview: Diana Buttu on Palestinian unity and the way forward

NOVANEWS

 

Diana Buttu is a Canadian-Palestinian lawyer. From 2000-2005, she served in the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit as a legal and communications adviser.

Ma’an recently interviewed Buttu to discuss the recent reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the Israeli decision to end the peace negotiations, and the way forward for the Palestinian national movement.

What factors do you think led to the agreement? There was talk back in December and January about the possibility of a reconciliation agreement, but why did it happen now? 

I think there were two main factors that led to this, one on the Hamas side and one on the Fatah side.

On the Hamas side, I think they’re starting to feel the effects of the Sisi government and the closure of the tunnels, as well as the fact that the PA hasn’t really done anything on the Israeli side to ease up the siege.

The siege as a whole was starting to really affect them — the fact that Palestinians couldn’t go through Rafah any longer, the fact that goods were not coming in as readily as before, and the fact of tunnels being closed down generally. At a certain point they realized that in order for the prison to get a little bit of air they needed to reach some type of agreement with Fatah.

The contours of the agreement had always been there, and they had been decided — as late as 2010, and as far back as 2008, but it was just a question of implementing it.

On the Fatah side, it has a lot do with the fact that this April 29 deadline is coming, and that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has absolutely nothing to show for this 9-month negotiation period.

Abu Mazen, unlike Fatah, is very concerned about the fact that he doesn’t have legitimacy. He’s pulled a whole bunch of stunts over the past four years to try to boost his legitimacy. The first one was back in 2011, when he did the first push to go to the UN to declare statehood. But he didn’t push the issue in the Security Council, he just let it drop. But it was a big issue, he created a big ruckus, and then of course nothing happened. The same thing happened in 2012 — he went to go upgrade our status at the UN, and then he gets the upgrade, and doesn’t push it anywhere.

I think that what happened is that he realized that nothing was going to come of these negotiations, so he needed to do something to show that he is not only legitimate but very popular. And this was very convenient, so the interests on both sides coalesced. And that’s why I’m not so optimistic about it, to be quite honest.

Why not?

I’m not optimistic because they did not base their agreement on a national Palestinian strategy, or a national Palestinian vision, or an idea of what’s good for Palestine. They based it on their factional interests. And provided that their politics remain the same, then this agreement may stick. But if anything changes in one way or another, then we might just see a return back to division once again.

It wasn’t that they went in with this vision that we are now going to have a unified strategy to confront Israel, to confront the occupation, to address all of the various issues. Instead, it was: “What are our individual political interests that have led us to come together?”

When you suggest that something could change and they could split back again, what kind of events are you referring to? 

A few things could change. If the Americans come through and put pressure on Abu Mazen, particularly if we see economic pressure coupled with the condition that they not form a unity or consensus government, we might just see a split back to the old ways.

In other words, the US through its economic incentives can — and just may — push the lever to push back.

You’ve talked about reasons for pessimism. Are there any reasons for optimism? Is this a potentially historic reconciliation like people are saying?

Potentially it is. I’m pessimistic only because I’ve seen where the parties have taken it over the course of history, but there’s a lot of power in this.

It will be the first time that the PLO recognizes that neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad are going away and that they are legitimate players within the Palestinian political spectrum. That’s very powerful.

And not only is that powerful — it can then lead to having combined decision-making and a greater say in addressing some of the various issues we’re facing … This definitely has the potential to be huge, and I hope that they seize the moment.

With Hamas’ inclusion in PLO, there was an opportunity for Israel to be negotiating with the major Palestinian political factions, both in the West Bank and Gaza, which seemed like an opportunity for more meaningful peace talks.

But on the other hand, many people welcomed Hamas’ entrance and the collapse of the talks because they saw it as putting an end to the charade. What reasons for optimism and pessimism do you see with the end of the talks?

I think that there’s been no benefit that has come from this process of negotiation, and that there is no down side to ending these negotiations, to put it bluntly. This reconciliation agreement just shows how farcical Israel has been behaving.

Firstly, there has been no reconciliation for seven years. If Israel was truly interested in peace, they could have at any time in those seven years ended the occupation and reached some form of an agreement.

Secondly, Netanyahu is the very person who said that he can’t negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas because he doesn’t represent the entire Palestinian polity, and because he doesn’t control the Gaza Strip. So now, you’ve got somebody who is presumably under the umbrella of an actual consensus government, and the Israelis are saying that now we can’t negotiate with them because Hamas is included! So it’s a farce.

This agreement coming together has really highlighted what a farce Israel is and the farce of the position that it has taken when it comes to these negotiations. This is why if anything, now is the time for us to regroup, to re-strategize, and to think about what the next steps are.

There has been far too much time — 21 years in fact — spent on negotiations, and not enough time spent on the alternatives.

What kind of alternatives are you thinking about? 

There is a lot of things they could be doing, specifically encouraging popular resistance and encouraging boycott, divestment, and sanctions. The reason I think encouraging popular resistance is important is because if you think back to the first Intifada, what brought Palestinians literally into the homes of Israelis was the Intifada, and the fact that there was popular resistance.

For the first time, Palestinians weren’t these invisible people just living in the West Bank, and the “situation was complicated.” Or that these people were in a worst case scenario the workers, these invisible people who made Israel’s life easier.

The First Intifada was the first time that Palestinians were now in Israeli living rooms, on their television screens. I think that there’s a power to that, and I think that’s what led — not to Oslo — but to recognition that Palestinians have a right to self determination.

They need to go back to that strategy of popular resistance, and supporting it, instead of doing what Abbas and Fatah have done, which is to wag their finger at everybody and say “Thou shalt not.” They don’t empower us to do something, they just tell us what you shouldn’t do. That’s why I think popular resistance is an important strategy.

The second thing is BDS, for the same reason — it brings into the Israeli home exactly what Israel is doing in their name. It holds the government to account for its actions, which it has never been held to account for before.

The third thing is that we have to start focusing on the “sanctions” part of BDS, which is really important. With this upgraded status, there is a lot that the PLO could be doing, like pushing for sanctions and for Israel’s expulsion from various international organizations. Just like South Africa did.

When you talk about the push for popular resistance, what kind of goals do you see emerging in the medium term?

The main goal is to hold Israel to account. Whether it is holding them to account in an international arena, or by holding them to account through popular resistance, they need to begin to see that there is a price to be paid for the continued occupation and the continued racism inside ’48.

There has to be a price that is paid for this continued occupation. I’m talking about popular resistance, not armed resistance. But I think that this image or belief that the PA had — that somehow the international community is going to save us — has been proven to be a false one, The international community is not going to save Palestine, and I think the only thing that we can do is save ourselves and make this costly for Israel. And it’ll be costly on us for a long period of time too.

That said, we’ve been proven to be a little bit more resilient.

I think about this all the time — the resilience is amazing. The Israelis put up a checkpoint and people go around it. Men get imprisoned, and then go to court like a good Palestinian, and ask that they be allowed conjugal visits. The court says no, and then the Palestinians smuggle out sperm. I mean, where does this exist? The resilience is mind blowing!

From as tiny a thing as checkpoints, to the demolition of schools and the fact that people continue to rebuild, that people aren’t going away even though they live in Area C and they know that their homes are under threat of demolition. There’s a resilience there that the PA hasn’t tapped into.

What do you think about possibility of resurgence of violent resistance?

I don’t think that that’s going to happen. If it were going to happen, it would have happened. The Israelis let loose during this period of negotiations, with more than 60 Palestinians killed, bombing in Gaza, continued imprisonment of Palestinians at even higher rates than before, land confiscation, home demolitions, and the building of more settlements.

The one issue touching on the religious aspect? They’ve already been doing it by going to Al-Aqsa and depriving Palestinians of the ability to attend Easter processions.

All the elements are there, and yet Palestinians have behaved with incredible restraint. I don’t see that its going to be a return to violence, but I also don’t have a crystal ball.

This might be a powder keg and there might be a spark that happens tomorrow. But it would have happened whether there was a national unity agreement or not.

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Forty Years Later, From Dictatorship to Neoliberalism. Portugal as a Model for a New Socialism?

NOVANEWS

 

Global Research

 

A vision becomes tangible. Here at the edge of Europe, models for a new socialism arise, for the lived experience of justice and freedom; for the healing of nature and for regional self-sufficiency.

Interconnected communities and regions – and no longer (only) the working class – are the revolutionary subjects for a new socialism. Amongst them the collective intelligence develops with which they are able to encounter the challenges and resist opposition. The country could thereby again become the Mecca of the world’s revolutionary youth. This spark will spread like wildfire – and no power in the world will be able to extinguish it. For a united people, connected through friendship and the sharing of knowledge, in possession of healthy and decentralized conditions of production, unified by a heart-anchored universal ethic – will never be defeated.

“In my country there is a prohibited word. A thousand times they have put it in shackles, a thousand times it arose again.” (Manuel Alegre)

“It will become plain, that the world has long possessed the dream of something, of which it only needs to possess its consciousness, for it to possess it in reality.”(Karl Marx)

Note: In this text the words socialism and communism are used synonymously. I see their differentiation and the rift, which has been stretched between their representatives, as no longer appropriate today. This article is directed toward all those interested in justice, solidarity and freedom.

Part I: Dictatorship and Revolution in Portugal – History of a Dream

Lisbon, December 1960. In a bar two students clink their glasses to freedom – “A Liberdade!” They are spied on, denounced and finally sentenced to seven years in prison. Under the Portuguese military dictatorship the word ‘freedom’ is prohibited. It was reading about this incident in the London Times which moved the lawyer, Peter Benenson, to found Amnesty International.It would still be thirteen years to the end of the dictatorship in Portugal. On April 25, 1974 left-leaning troops move into Lisbon and within hours take over all key strategic places in the country. The head of state and secret service give up after a short resistance. Forty-eight years of dictatorship are over. The dream of socialism awakens.

Today Portugal suffers under a dictatorship again – the dictatorship of capital, as countless graffiti on the walls attest. Austerity measures, debt and tax regulations pressure the workers, small business owners, craftsmen and farmers above all others. The wave of privatization pushes masses of people into unemployment. The number of young people leaving the country today is almost as high as during the dictatorship – back then they fled military service and prison, today they flee from the prospect of a bleak future.

But the country and its people have not fully forgotten the dream of freedom, equality and socialism. After the big demonstrations against the Troika in recent years, some pioneer groups moved to the countryside to build alternatives – cooperatives for regional subsistence and neighborly assistance; “Ajudadas” (actions of mutual help); legal and illegal local markets for exchanging goods outside of the monetary system; “Land Banks” for transferring property between landowners and landless people; citizenship academies for conveying knowledge. As small and cautious as these attempts often are they carry great potential. Visionary thinkers already see a new map of Portugal arising – a map of regional economic cycles, modern subsistence, self-confident eco-regions and model villages, which counter the globalized world with another reality.

At a time when the dream of socialism seemed to be over – with the decline of the eastern bloc and the fall of the Berlin Wall, with its activists reintegrating into the capitalist system – it turns out that socialism is a dream of humanity and a dream of humanity cannot be suppressed. It will come out time and again anew until it is realized. However, this might happen differently than its early proponents predicted.

Capitalism is not the final state of civilization. A system directed toward exploitation and profit cannot last in the long run. Its inherent violence destroys everything which is alive and valuable; it destroys resources and the basic necessities of life. Young people are rising up against this in all parts of the planet. It is only a matter of time before the collapse of the system; a short time.

Strange as it may seem, in the countries most affected by the crisis, a possible alternative is arising: a humane socialism of interconnected autonomous regions and communities, of self-determination and cooperation with nature. A socialism of trust in which people can experience community before they engage in thesocialization of production. A socialism of self-organization that subverts systems of globalized capitalism because it no longer cooperates with them and no longer offers a target for their counter powers. Once the first functioning examples are visible it spreads among the youth of the world like wildfire.

This movement will, like any other, unfold to its revolutionary potential as far as its advocates and activists become conscious of the dream that connects them all.

April 25th 1974 – the “Longest Day”

“On every corner, a friend. In every face, equality. It is the people who command,” sang Zeca Afonso in the famous, outlawed song, “Grândola Vila Morena.” The lyrics expressed the feelings of the multitude of land workers in the Alentejo, who had long suffered under the feudal domination of big landowners. Bitterly poor, they needed to hire themselves out as day laborers without rights. Tens of thousands ended up in the torture prisons of the notorious “PIDE,” the secret police, for simply voicing their opinion.

There was no freedom of assembly; those who spoke on the street to more than one person at a time were suspected of conspiracy. Portugal had the highest child mortality rate in Europe. The people were denied education; one-third were illiterate. The sons of the country were fighting in bloody, anachronistic colonial wars in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau.

By the end of the dictatorship the mandatory national service was four years long. Today one sees that generation’s veterans sitting in the squares and in the sun in front of their homes; old men, traumatized and often mutilated. Without the daily experience of solidarity and mutual help in the village communities, without the dream of a different life, it would hardly have been possible for them to live and have survived the suppression, surveillance and hunger.

When the prohibited Grândola song resounded from Renascença radio on that Thursday, shortly after midnight, forty years ago, the young officers of the left wing “Movement of the Armed Forces” were already on their way to the capital – the operation “End of Regime” began. In the early morning they occupied strategic state facilities. Approaching military troops joined together in solidarity. They were welcomed by jubilant masses who lined the roads with gifts of apples, bread and red carnations. The people thus applauded the coup and gave the revolution its name. In the late afternoon the Head of State Caetano resigned. Shots were fired only in front of the PIDE command central, killing four protestors. By the next morning the curse was over.

Six days later, half a million people celebrated May Day on the streets of Lisbon for the first time in their lives. Everyone was on their feet. Lorries of workers came from the suburbs to the city. Red flags flooded from buses and trains. People were dancing in the streets. Finally the country would belong to those who fuel its economy. Finally the workers would lead the factories. Hunger, poverty and undignified work would come to an end.

Solidarity and community would prevail where fear and suppression had so far reigned. Soon the colonies would be released to independence. The prisons were opened, the political prisoners freed. Dissidents, deserters and socialist leaders returned to their home country. The poet and resistance fighter, Manuel Allegre, was welcomed with fliers proclaiming his own words, “We return in May, when the city dresses itself with people in love, and freedom will be the face of the city.”

The dream of freedom and justice, of autonomy and self-determination, of communal property and common responsibility seemed to come true. For many people that celebrated on this day, this dream had a name: Socialism.

Looking back to the Beginning of the 20th Century

This idea had been floating in peoples’ minds since the beginning of the century. It entered Portugal with the first trains that returned from delivering cork to northern Europe, arriving into a bubbling social atmosphere. Change was in the air. While the grain barons of the Alentejo were still partying lavishly subversive messages of revolution and communism, anarchism and socialism spread among the land workers. The news of a country that was governed by farmers and workers and where everyone had the right to land sounded like tales of paradise. The notion of a better life gained a specific name; a theory that opened up the world to the people and connected them to a global process. As is the case wherever people have long endured domination and abuse, it was knowledge capable of changing their situation and self-image.

Worlds of new understanding opened up. Catholicism, nationalism and feudalism – the foundations of society were unveiled as ideologies of domination. Suddenly a land worker in Portugal no longer saw himself as the lowest link in a societal chain, but as part of a global movement. It was an awakening that released new powers, courage and creativity for resistance. Groups of workers hijacked harvest consignments and claimed the profits from sales for themselves. Anarchistic living experiments came into being, which practicedfreedom, nudity and subsistence.

But it was still too early; the oligarchy of ruling families was still too powerful. In 1926 the military seized power after only sixteen years of the republic. In 1932 the ascetic and reclusive bachelor professor of economics, António de Oliviero Salazar, rose to lead the military dictatorship with his austerity measures. His “Estado Novo” (“New State”) propounded discipline, strictness and piety. “Lonely and Proud” was its motto; it seemed as if absolutely non-Portuguese principles had taken power. National self-sufficiency, total censorship and the fierce defense of the colonial empire were the characteristics of the one-party state that diverted the people with “Fado, Football and Fátima.” Many resistance attempts were thwarted during nearly five decades of dictatorship.

The Awakening and Failure of the Carnation Revolution

Now in 1974, a new society, hand-in-hand in solidarity and justice, was to arise. The returning socialist and communist leaders entered the stadium together in a demonstration of unity, enthusiastically saluted by the masses of people, “O povo unido jamais será vencido!” – “The people united will never be defeated!”

The entire nation seemed to radicalize. Businesses and banks were nationalized. Students and professors, so recently still spied on and persecuted by their directors, unseated them from their positions without ceremony and organized their education themselves. Thoughts, ideas and groups, which had been prohibited for half a century, exploded like fireworks. Small left-wing factions wrote their slogans and beliefs all over the walls. Throughout the entire country self-organized citizenship and neighborhood committees arose and took over the fire departments, roadwork and other long neglected tasks. The workers drove out repressive factory-owners. The agrarian reform, modeled on the Soviets, nationalized land; large-scale landowners were expropriated. Land workers founded hundreds of cooperatives on Herdades (farms) and villages, mostly in the south of the country. They worked fields and shared the revenue collectively. Volunteers from many countries came to help. For a short time, Portugal became the Mecca for European youth who dreamt of socialism.

But the Portuguese people did not take the world into their reckoning. 1974 was a year when other southern Europe military dictatorships also fell into crisis, as in Spain, or collapsed, as in Greece. It was the peak of the Cold War; every conflict, every uprising became a proxy conflict between East and West. The West was unwilling to support or tolerate a socialist country in Europe. A new Cuba, Vietnam or Chile had to be prevented by all means. The East-West conflict also divided the lauded unity of the Portuguese people. The socialists were increasingly influenced by the European Social Democrats and adopted their motto: “Reforms instead of Revolution.” The Soviet Union openly supported the Portuguese Communist Party; their followers were mostly in the South while in the North, a well-oiled anti-communist propaganda machine was set into motion, financed and organized, many assume, by the United States.

The other reason for the failure of the revolution came from inside – it was impossible to recover from the imprint of fifty years of dictatorship overnight. The inner wounds were not dealt with and healed, as is still true in many cases today. The unity of the people broke apart principally in those places where there was no real vision and experience of a lived socialism, of actual community. How could people build cooperatives and manage communal properties without knowing how to foster trust among one another? How could one lead without domination? How could one make democratic decisions without getting stuck in a thousand discussions? How should one deal with omnipresent human issues like competition or jealousy? And how could one resolve conflicts healthily without suppression? Uneducated land workers were suddenly responsible for tasks for which they were ill-prepared. The quickly changing governments were still entrenched in economic webs rooted in the principles of capitalism and they did not back the agrarian reforms. People’s enthusiasm and positive will alone were unable to withstand the challenges of independence.

The slogan, “Fascismo nunca mais” – “Fascism Never Again,” which is still often heard in demonstrations today, was the broadest common ground Portugal could agree on after decades without freedom of speech and information. After a final revolt in the “hot summer of 1976,” Portuguese society tipped backwards to a bourgeois way of life. The declaration of socialism as a state goal in the constitution remained as empty words. Step by step capital regained its power. The agrarian reform was revoked; there were bitter scenes as farms were repossessed and small-scale farmers lost the fruits of their work and the land they had just cultivated. The remaining cooperatives – gathering places, the cultural living rooms of the villagers, in which the locals could exchange their products – were deprived of their legal benefits, and therefore, of their basis of existence. Thereby, a centerpiece of the revolution was lost.

End of the Line: Capitalism

The West had won. The entry into the European Union (EU) in 1986 was promoted to the Portuguese people as a way toward security and prosperity. The still quite impoverished country soon became Brussels’ exemplary student, eagerly conforming to all requirements. Included in these was a pervasive change in agriculture. Although the large grain fields had largely covered the nutritional needs of Portugal they were transformed into monoculture forests. Pine and eucalyptus trees were cultivated for export as cheap wood for paper and pallets. This was a shortsighted decision. Not only ecologically, but also economically, as eastern European countries could take over this endeavor even more cheaply after the Berlin Wall fell. At this point, however, Portugal was already dependent on food imports which today stand at approximately 80 percent of the country’s consumption. This is the situation in a country blessed by abundant sunshine and rain and with a mild climate; the “best growth conditions within Europe,” according to Ferry Enthoven of Atlantic Growers, one of the many foreign agri-businesses in Portugal.

The ambitious and destructive mega-projects of the dictatorship, such as the reservoir dams, were carried forward under the EU. One example is the Alqueva Dam in the Alentejo, constructed in 2002, Europe’s biggest reservoir dam which flooded villages and historical cultural sites. It destroyed the once splendid Guadiana River and the many rock formations and breeding grounds for rare birds along its shore. Its water – already severely contaminated by Spain’s agricultural industry – currently feeds into a canal system. Its head-high concrete pipes and reservoirs go through the entire Alentejo. The profit is almost exclusively reaped by foreign agriculture companies with their immense olive groves, plantations of genetically modified corn and greenhouse tunnels. Instead of bringing wealth into the region by employing local labor, these projects annually attract many thousands of low-paidmigrant workersfrom Nepal, Bulgaria and Thailand into the country.

Alfredo Cunhal, organic farmer from Montemor-o-Novo says, “In regard to nature and agriculture, dictatorship, socialism and capitalism have all followed the same strategy – centralization and specialization. This has a destructive effect on nature and is fatal for rural development.” His attempts at reintroducing the traditional way of farming, Montado and at establishing a diverse farm, deserve all the support they can get.

“Then in the nineties they threw money at us,” remembers history professor Antonio Quaresma. “The banks almost chased after us with generous loan offers.”

The borrowed wealth blurred people’s sense of reality. The country was soon full of brand-new cars, modern one-family houses and unused highways; however they had hardly any meansof production that could generate wealth. Quaresma says, “We sensed that we would receive the bill for this at some point, but we didn’t know in which form. Now we know.”

As a result of the global economic crisis the debt trap snapped shut – on both nationally and individual scales. In March 2011 the Portuguese government applied for the European bailout. The consequences of the consequent austerity measures impoverished large parts of society. According to recent reports 600,000 people over the age of 65 are suffering from malnutrition. The unemployment rate in Portugal is at 18 percent and among people under 24, it stands at 37 percent. Through the hikes in interest rates, countless people were unable to pay back their loans, similar to what happened in the United States. They needed to forfeit their homes, which were financed on debt, and move into public housing projects. Innumerable families broke apart under these conditions, yet maintain the pretense of order. “They are ashamed,” notes Teresa Chaves, coordinator of Caritas in Beja, who due to the crisis, has to deal with an ever-increasing number of hardship cases. “School pupils spend the few Euros they have on mobile phones and branded clothes in order to not lose prestige but they don’t have any money left for their school lunches.” She makes a clear point that the country sits on a social time bomb. In the local elections of 2013 the voters gave the government a sign of this discontent; now half of all municipalities in the Alentejo have communist mayors again.

From the Dream to the System Change

What positive idea can reignite people’s will for change after all these attempts and defeats? What is the dream of Portugal?

If one drives through the countryside and stops in remote villages to share bread and thoughts with the locals, one recognizes that something in the people of this nation has remained astonishingly untouched by the many invading forces, including the current demands of globalization. There is a downright defiant connection with the land; village life is still characterized by mutual help, neighborliness and a quiet non-participation in the attitude and pace of global-commercialism; there is also often determined non-cooperation toenviro-economic mega-projects like reservoir dams and mines. Chatting with the customer is still more important to the cashier than the impatient bureaucrat waiting in line. The mechanic still stops working to pet a stray dog. In the bar on the corner one can still get the home-brewed liquor and the cake baked by a neighbor – even for the policeman who turns a blind eye to them; he is part of the village community after all. And it was this community that helped people survive throughout all the times of hardship. Still today, this is more important to many people than arguments about economics and employment.

It is as if the majority of the people silently follow an approach to life different to that prescribed as a panacea in our modern time. An approach to life that is not centered only around money and profit but around common values, connectedness and mutual responsibility. It seems as if a dream has survived in this country, throughout monarchy and the colonial empire, dictatorship and revolution. Perhaps Portugal is destined to revive this dream.

“All knowledge is remembering,” Plato once said. There are few countries with so many cultural monuments, stone circles and dolmen from the Neolithic era. Nestledin many secluded places they give a deep impression of a timeless, enchanted world. Is it possible that these stone circles tell the story of matriarchal peace knowledge where community and cooperation with nature were still a matter of course? It is as if these monuments coined the history of the country more than all attempts at domestication by church and state.

In times of savage globalized capitalism this original way of life has been pushed to the brink of abyss, declared as weakness, has been sneered at and ridiculed. Yet it did not perish, not here in rural Portugal. Observers asks themselves, ‘Could this world become the center of attraction again now that the hitherto capitalist system is cracking, sickening to the point of collapse due to its inherent flaws?’

In this historical situation, the first young people from the protest generation move to the countryside in order to create a perspective for life outside of the Troika. In this climate, away from the modern centers of power, they breathe a new air of freedom and experiment with projects; regenerating landscapes and reactivating abandoned villages in contact with the old local communities. Confronted with austerity measures and the restrictions of the Troika, projects for neighborly help and modern subsistence arise. They connect to each other, develop alternative cooperatives for regional produce and subvert prohibitions against local trade with creativity and stubbornness. They experience for themselves what the older locals hold clear: that village communities and neighborhoods are the most reliable bases in times of crisis.

If these experiments now begin to catch on and apply the widely available knowledge for ecological healing, decentralized energy technology, community and peace-knowledge and alternative economics, their projects could become laboratories for the future. As unlikely as it may seem, it could thus be that the crisis in Southern Europe could help catalyze a global system change. It is a system change which the whole Earth needs. For not only Portugal lives under the dictatorship of capital; the entire world does. With even the most remote regions under threat of subjugation to the New World Order of free trade, the protest movements on all continents urgently need models to pave the road towards post-capitalism.

Portugal, positioned at the South-Western corner of Europe, is a cultural and environmental bridge between Europe and Africa. Solutions that are developed here and tested under the protection of European security, can also be applied in the Global South and could thereby contribute to dissolving the disparity between North and South. Forty years after the Carnation Revolution, the country could become a model for a new socialism.

Socialism must be renewed and expandedby the knowledge that has been developed over the past century. The following five core points need to be components of a new socialism for it to gain a greater attracting and manifesting power than capitalism.
Part II: Core Points of a New Socialism

1. Socialization and Decentralization of Production

Socialism means that the economic power is in the hands of the people who operate and live from it. The decisions and responsibilities are carried by those concerned. Profit-centerednessas a motor of economy is not sustainable. Beyond the private enrichment of individuals stands the interest of the community – this is not a moralistic commandment but a law of social peace.

It is not states which should carry the new socialism, but systems small enough to be readily comprehensible– decentralized village and regional communities which are interlinked, largely self-sufficient and in cooperation with nature. The more transparent and comprehensible the cycles of production, trade and consumption, the healthier they are for humans and for nature. Interconnected, diverse and decentralized – the new socialism functions in many areas taking to nature as its role model.

What does regional autonomy mean? First of all, each region brings forth the basic products that are needed for supplying its humans, animals, plants and ecosystems. This mainly applies to nutrition and energy. The surplus products can be traded outside of the regions. The revenue gained from the sale of products stays in the region. Modern, interconnected subsistence is the principle for the redesign of the global economy and the absolute counter plan to the neoliberal globalization.

2. Community: the Human Interior of the New Socialism

Historically socialism did not fail because the idea was wrong, but because people had no substantial experience of community life. If mistrust and fear dominate human coexistence, one will not be able to socialize production. New socialism is based on communitarian ways of life.

The decision to be courageous, just and in solidarity, is not (only) an individual matter. Human development is also a consequence of the social conditions of production, in which a person grows up and lives; the things he or she experiences as a child – the love, home, security or openness. Functioning communities of trust are the most fertile ground to develop solidarity, communitarian consciousness, courage for truth – all the necessary human qualities for a functioning socialism. Under conditions of narrowness and loneliness, human beings become subordinate or consumers, anddo not develop into social beings. Wherever they experience acceptance, home and challenge in a community, a dream of humankind is fulfilled.

What the youth of the world experience in the squares and camps of the revolutionary movements and what connects the elderly people in the Portuguese villages is an approach to community. This experience can be modernized, objectified and taught.

The community, into which nuclear families are integrated, is the original home of the human being. “It takes a village to raise a child,” says the African proverb. Community is also the home of love; it bestows protection for love’s sensitive opening here so that a love relationship does not turn into a prison.

3. Cooperation with Nature and Landscape Healing

Every region can produce what its inhabitants – human beings, animals and nature – require to live. “Water, food and energy are freely available to all human beings if we no longer follow the laws of capital, but the logic of nature,” says Dr. Dieter Duhm in the “Tamera Manifesto.” Even landscapes severely degraded by desertification, erosion and deforestation, can be healed. Thus the alimentary biotopes can flourish in abundance, which will deprive the basis for any speculation.

In addition, we need to learn to cooperate with nature. We need to realize that alongside human rights, there also exist rights for animals and the Earth. In the new socialism, the principles of equality and justice do not only apply to human beings, but also to nature. Before making any decision, any measure that concerns a region, the animals, plants and ecosystems which would be affected should be consulted as well as human beings We can learn to hear their voice.

With knowledge about cooperation with nature we are capable of ending scarcity, hunger and war all over the world. It enables villages and regions to take their supply into their own hands and to liberate themselves from dependence on the globalized systems. It is knowledge for freedom.

4. The Role of Woman and Reconciliation Between the Genders

The reconciliation between the genders is a condition of peace and justice. There can be no peace on Earth so long as there is war in love. Portugal has always fostered the adoration of the feminine – starting with the aforementioned Neolithic matriarchal tribal cultures, including the worship of the Goddess of the Sky, in Fátima and to the adoration of Mary, present in every village.

A new socialism is unthinkable without higher valuing of women. This is not only about demanding equality but about regaining the female powers and qualities that could not blossom during patriarchy. This is in full accordance with the constitution of the Iroquois where a chief was supposed to be “like a good mother.” In the communities of the future, qualitieslike care, reconciliation, forgiveness, social responsibility, communication and building trust will be indispensable.

Socialism is based on solidarity with women worldwide. This also means courage to stand for the sexual self-determination of woman; liberation from notions of virtue and morals which are no longer appropriate. This outmoded morality was initially violently imposed on women, until they themselves became its defenders.

Sabine Lichtenfels, theologian and co-founder of Tamera says, “Anew feminine power is not targeted at men, nor is it targeted against our love for men – it simply, decisively leaves behind those patriarchal structures that have led to the worldwide extinction of life and love. It is now up to us women to again assume the political and sexual responsibility that we abandoned for so long.”

All areas of life, be it ecology, politics or economy will have a different orientation when women connect with their sources and accept their meaning and task. Communities in which solidarity and trust among women arises, where they take on responsibility for themselves, for their children and for what they love, are anchor places for life itself. Such communities become strong and stable, and canenduremany of the storms of our time.

5. Ethics and Spirituality: Bridges Instead of Walls

The new socialism needs objective ethics which are anchored in the hearts of everyone and not in religious or political dogmas.

Traditionally, Portugal had been a haven for dissidents and heretics. Tolerance, hospitality and openness to strangers have always been more important to the people than ideology and juridical thought. Paulo Borges, a philosophy professor from Lisbon says, “It is part of Portugal’s being to build bridges, rather than walls. The world has been living in a paradigm of separation, leading to exploitation, war and violence for the past 6,000 years. Especially in times of crisis, Portugal can become a birthplace for a new paradigm of empathy and non-separation.” The PAN Party he founded – the party for animal rights and nature – already achieved impressive success at the first election they participated in.

After thefateful alliance between church and state, during monarchy and dictatorship, and the abuse of religious dogmas for domination and tyranny, the church in Portugal has changed. Today it takes on helping, social tasks without the moralizing, oversized pointing finger of its past. As understandable as it was that many followers of the socialist movement initially distanced themselves from the church, there is today a pragmatic cooperation in many places. This is how in some places the best of both church and communism unites – the role model of the revolutionary Jesus, combining the stand for social justice with mutual help. The ethics of an engaged, socialist love for the neighbor under the auspices of an omnipresent Marian power, would stand above any religion or ideology, and could unify the new powers of awakening.

Dom António Vitalino Dantas, the Bishop of Beja, is a representative for engaged Christianity. Known for his dedication to social justice, he tirelessly mediates between politicians and citizens. He also supports the manifestation of self-sufficient models and endeavorsto motivate landlords to donate their unused properties to new ecological and social communities. Dom António says, “Abandoned villages, schools and farms could be revitalized in that way.”

Tamera Research and Education Center

Within these conditions holistic models and socio-ecological experiments prosper. One example is the international peace research center Tamera, founded in 1995 by Sabine Lichtenfels and Dr. Dieter Duhm, a bestselling author of the German “New Left.” Today 170 people live here and work on a comprehensive model for a peace society. They thereby develop and combine ecological and social solutions for a post-capitalist way of life which can be replicated worldwide. Besides their pioneering work in ecology, they focus primarily on the healing of love and of human community. Tamera is an international education centre that also brings current ecological and social knowledge into the local region. It is also becoming a meeting point for a regional and local autonomy movement. Other communities and groups already begin to settle, get connected and exchange among one another around this nexus – in close cooperation and complementation with the extant rural population. Rui Braga, co-worker of Tamera says, “This is how the Alentejo could become the new Silicon Valley for autonomy and sustainability.”

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Oligarchs R’ US. That “Iron Law” Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us

NOVANEWS
Global Research

For years, it was a term only used in connection with those big bad and sleazy Mafioso-type businessmen in Russia.

Russia had Oligarchs; we didn’t.

That became a big difference between the official narrative of what separated our land of the free and the home of the brave from THEM, the snakes in the shades and private planes, in the post-Soviet period.

Actually, I first heard the term oligarchy when I was studying labor history at Cornell a half a lifetime ago. We were taught about something called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.”

It was a concept coined by Robert Michels, a friend of sociology guru, Max Weber, way back in 1911. Here’s how it was defined in that relic of another age: The Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Michels came to the conclusion that the formal organization of bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by asmall, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility. This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made.”

So, oligarchies have been with us seemingly forever—it’s an “iron law,” says he– but in current usage the term references the small elite—the 1% of the 1% that dominates economic and political decision making.

Every body on the liberal left is now discovering information spelled out in a number of studies that caught the attention of Bill Moyers and his writing colleague Michael Winship. They discuss the way governments become partial to oligarchs and insure that the rich rule:

“Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’sCapital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”

According to the AFL-CIO,” CEOs of major companies earn an average of 331 times more than their employees!” The NY Times reports America’s middle class is “no longer the world’s richest.”

Asking if democracy can “tame” plutocracy, Bob Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, cites another study:

“A recent exhaustive study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page found that elites got their way not often, but virtually all of the time (emphasis mine!) I guess the answer to his question re the possibility of “taming” plutocrats is, in the current moment, is a thundering NO.”

Even the barons of business news admit that wealth is concentrated as almost never before, Here’s Bloomberg:

”Just today, the world’s 200 richest people made $13.9 billion. In one single day, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index… This is the Fed’s “wealth effect,” … It’s a construct that the Greenspan Fed conjured up out of thin air and presented to the incredulous American people as a valid economic theory. Bernanke then promoted it to the Fed’s stated raison d’être. His theory: if we immensely enrich during years of bailouts, money-printing, and interest rate repression the richest few thousand people in the world, everyone would be happy somehow.”

Adding critical fire power to this perspective, Eric Zuesse, cites the study to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, that finds that “the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts…

When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.”

The underlying research for this study drew on “a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.”

Much of this involves what economist Simon Johnston calls the “capture” of the state by corporate interests. He explains in a recent post: “Before 1939, wages and profits in the financial sector in the United States amounted to less than 1% of GDP; now they stand at 7-8% of GDP. In recent decades, financial assets have expanded dramatically relative to any measure of economic activity, as life expectancy increased and the post-WWII baby boomers began to think about saving for retirement. Compared to the size of the US economy, individual banks are now much bigger than they were in the early 1990’s.”

Sounds pretty frightening—and depressing.

None of us should be shocked by these findings. Last year I did a TV documentary series,Who Rules America based, in part, on the writings of C. Wight Mills on The Power Elite years ago and the detailed research by sociologist William Domhoff who forecast these trends.

As the economy changes, so does internal politics, as Tom Lodge observes in the case of South Africa:

“the degenerative changes that are observed within the ANC … appear to reflect a global trend in which mass parties are being replaced by electoral machines that depend less and less upon militant activism” and more on transactional exchanges between the electorate and the political elite. Amid these electoral limitations, what becomes the source of agency for ordinary people to instruct change in governance?”

What indeed? It behooves us to lobby our media to start reporting on the world as it is, not what it was,when today’s senior editors grew up, believing in the myths of American pluralism. And, now,disregarding who really has, and wields, power.

Knock, Knock!

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Thousands at risk of starvation in Yarmouk, UN warns

NOVANEWS

 

Submitted by Maureen Clare Murphy

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Man carries box of UN provisions amid crowd

UN food distribution in Yarmouk on 24 February.

 (UNRWA)

The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, was permitted to make a delivery of 300 food packages to Yarmouk camp near Damascus today, after 15 days of being denied access by the Syrian government.

However, the delivery is a drop in the ocean of what is needed in in the besieged refugee camp, where an estimated 18,000 civilians remain trapped. The camp was once the largest population center of Palestine refugees in Syria, as well as home to thousands of Syrians.

UNRWA says it needs to deliver 700 food parcels per day to prevent starvation in the camp, where many residents have already died of hunger, the Guardian reported last weekend. However, an average of only 100 parcels per day have been delivered since the beginning of the year, despite the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2139 on 22 February requiring all parties in Syria’s civil war to allow unfettered humanitarian assistance.

According to a joint statement issued yesterday by UN agencies attempting to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, there are “at least one million people [who] are now in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Aleppo alone.”

“Starvation as weapon”

On HuffPost Live yesterday, spokespersons with UNRWA and the World Food Program and a researcher for Amnesty International said responsibility for the crisis lay with various parties.

Neil Sammonds, Syria researcher with Amnesty International, said that the “Main problem is the Syrian government,” which is not allowing food aid to come through its borders. He added that the government is “using starvation as a weapon of war to achieve its ends.”

Abeer Etefa of the World Food Program said that communities in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, are being completely cut off by both government and opposition forces. However, the agency was able to reach four million people in Syria in March.

Christopher Gunness of UNRWA emphasized that if it was within the UN Security Council’s power to implement an agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile, “with thousands of people possibly facing the risk of starvation, surely the Council can adopt an equally robust approach in getting Resolution 2130 implemented …”

Gunness added that the UN charter states: “the organization is there to save succeeding generations fromt he scourge of war and the fact is that tonight the people of Yarmouk are not being saved from the scourge of war and the credibility of all of us in the UN is at grave danger as are the lives of those poor, besieged civilians trapped in Yarmouk.”

Months of siege

report published by Amnesty International last month details the events leading up to the Syrian government’s siege on Yarmouk in December 2012 and its impact on its residents.

Titled Squeezing the Life Out of Yarmouk: War Crimes Against Besieged Civlians,” the 37-page report states:

Scores of civilians are reported to have died in Yarmouk as a direct result of the siege or have been killed in attacks by Syrian government forces. Amnesty International has obtained information about 194 individuals, all said to be civilians, who have lost their lives since government forces tightened the siege in July 2013. Starvation, lack of adequate medical care and shooting by snipers are the three main causes of death reported to Amnesty International.

Many other Yarmouk civilians have been wounded or maimed, or have fallen victim to illnesses caused by the severe conditions to which they have been exposed for so long. Yarmouk’s civilians have been brought to the brink of starvation, forced to forage for any food that they can find. They have few and diminishing medical facilities available to treat their sick and wounded. Every day they face uncertainty about their future and what the Syrian government forces may do to them if and when the siege ends. Elsewhere, other communities in Syria remain under siege by government troops and face similar privations and fears. Within the context of the siege, Syrian security forces have also arrested scores of Yarmouk residents, many of whom they have subjected to enforced disappearance. Some have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. Those arrested include at least 12 medical workers; six of whom were subjected to enforced disappearance and remain unaccounted for and another who died in the custody of Syrian security forces. All appear to have been targeted by the Syrian security forces on account of their activities as medical workers. Other medical and health workers have been killed and injured in apparently targeted or indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian government forces besieging Yarmouk.

The plight of the Palestinian refugees of Syria is a catastrophe within the wider catastrophe of Syria. Almost two thirds of Syria’s 530,000 Palestinian refugees have once again been displaced. Approximately 270,000 Palestinians are internally displaced in Syria. More than 50,000 are reported to have fled to Lebanon, 11,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 1,000 to Libya, 1,000 to Gaza and others to Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and other countries. As early as July 2013, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which provides protection and assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, described the community as “unravelling and in acute distress”.

Two-thirds of the fatalities identified by Amnesty were the cause of starvation. The group also noted cases of residents, including a child, foraging for edible plants being shot and killed by snipers.

Because of the depletion of stocks of food, the cost of a kilogram of rice skyrocketed to $70-100 in late 2013, according to the report.

One resident told Amnesty: “The last time I ate vegetables was more than eight months ago.”

Food poisoning and disease has resulted from residents being “forced to exist on a diet of leaves and weeds.”

The camp’s medical infrastructure has been badly impacted by the siege and medical workers killed and arrested.

The main hospital currently functioning in the camp, the Palestine Hospital run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), has been damaged by bombing and lost many of its staff and thus its capacity has reduced, according to Amnesty:

One health worker at the hospital told Amnesty International that it has been bombed a number of times by Syrian government forces: “On one occasion, a rocket hit the fourth floor and destroyed the generator. Another time a bomb fell at the front entrance.” He said that rockets had also struck the area surrounding the hospital several times, including one that hit a nearby building, causing damage to the door of the hospital and wounding one of the hospital’s staff. By February 2014, the Palestine Hospital’s capacity and services had been severely diminished by the months of siege; it had only two doctors, depended for its electricity on generators that were kept going using diesel fuel provided by residents from their own diminishing stocks, and was running low on medicines and other medical supplies, including fluids for intravenous therapy, locally referred to as “serum”. Yet the hospital continued to receive casualties – victims of shooting by government snipers and people suffering from a wide range of siege-related injuries and illnesses as well as others whose existing ailments have been exacerbated by the shortages of food, water, electricity and medicines arising from the siege.

Before the siege, the Palestine Hospital carried out around 600 surgical operations each month, including plastic surgery, ear, nose, throat and eye operations. Today, however, after months of siege, no surgeons remain and the hospital lacks proper medication for surgery patients; even so, according to a PRCS medical worker in Yarmouk who spoke to Amnesty International, “any necessary surgery is carried out by nurses who are learning by experience and study.” Unsurprisingly, another medical worker said “many have already died here due to a lack of serum and other medication.”

A PRCS-S volunteer told Amnesty International: “People are dying from injuries sustained from being shot by snipers, or in explosions, particularly if they were hit in the head or chest, since there is no one able to treat them. Other civilians are dying specifically due to the lack of medical equipment and supplies such as defibrillators, incubators, blood bags and serum. We also lack gauze and simple sterilizers.” A PRCS worker added that “babies are dying because there is no milk, neither powder nor from their mothers” and that hospital staff were trying to remedy this by arranging for other mothers who were successfully lactating to breastfeed several children in addition to their own.

According to one PRCS health worker, three women and five newborn babies died due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth in December 2013 and January 2014 because the hospital was unable to give them the medical treatment they required. There has been an increase in miscarriages due to food shortages and poor nutrition for pregnant women, and due to the collapse of antenatal facilities and care under the siege. A medical worker told Amnesty International that the hospital possesses an aged ultrasound machine but has no doctor to operate it; consequently, it cannot be used to identify potential foetal problems prior to birth. The lack of gynaecologists and surgeons means that the hospital cannot carry out Caesarean births; at least one pregnant woman is reported to have haemorrhaged to death. The hospital has just two midwives to advise and assist women during pregnancy and birth.

The Palestine Hospital’s two remaining doctors continue to treat patients with internal illnesses or injuries, to provide anaesthetics and first aid, but they have virtually no medical supplies. One of the hospital’s two stores of medical supplies has been exhausted while the other was seized, apparently for their own use, by armed men believed to be members of Suqour al-Jolan, an FSA-linked armed opposition group.

One medical worker told Amnesty International that he witnessed the armed men removing the store of medical supplies provided by the PRCS: “I saw their van full of our medical supplies stamped with ‘Ramallah’ on them.” The same armed opposition group is also reported to have been responsible for seizing the Palestine Hospital’s entire fleet of five ambulances.

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Palestinians celebrate Easter in reclaimed Galilee village

NOVANEWS

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Descendants of the refugees of Iqrit began camping in the ethnically-cleansed village in 2012.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Amir Ashkar’s grandparents were driven from their home in Iqrit, a Palestinian village in the northern Galilee region of present-day Israel, in 1948. Just three years later, on Christmas day of 1951, the Israeli military rendered the refugees permanently displaced when it razed the entire village, leaving only a church and a graveyard intact.

Along with approximately a dozen other descendants of refugees from Iqrit, Ashkar, 19, set up a tent and began to rebuild his ancestral village in August 2012.

“It is amazing how much support our return to Iqrit is receiving,” Ashkar told The Electronic Intifada on 21 April, as hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel poured into the village for Easter celebrations.

The traditional religious ceremonies were accompanied by an art festival that included musical performances, plays, lectures, tours and other cultural events.

Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel — from Christian, Muslim and Druze communities alike — attended the festivities. Others also came from the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“We chose to hold the festival in Iqrit because they taught us all a lesson,” Yazid Sadi, one of the organizers, told The Electronic Intifada. “They taught everybody a lesson about how to return and did not wait for the Israeli authorities’ permission to return to their land.”

According to campers who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, approximately a dozen persons live in Iqrit on a permanent basis, though the number fluctuates at times.

“Very difficult”

During the nearly two years they have been living in Iqrit, the youth have overcome a number of challenges.

The Israel Land Authority has forbidden them from building or fixing any structures other than the historic church and an outhouse. Surviving two winters in tents and inside the church, Ashkar said, was “very difficult.”

“The first winter was especially hard for us,” he explained. “The church’s infrastructure was very unstable and not good for the cold weather. At one point, rain water flooded the church and was knee-high.”

“For this winter,” Ashkar said, “we had to work since mid-summer to prepare everything. We had to fix the church up, to gather and chop enough wood for the winter, and make sure all is ready.”

Israeli authorities also demolished any structures that the campers built, including a garden and a small soccer stadium, and repeatedly uprooted trees that were planted. “They come on both official and unofficial visits,” Ashkar said.

“Sometimes the police or someone from the land authority will show up. But other times something like a guy who looks like a hiker taking pictures of [the area] will come and then authorities show up later.”

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Palestinians dance outside of Iqrit’s historic church during Easter celebrations on 21 April.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

The day after the Easter art festival concluded, officials with the Israel Land Authority arrived in Iqrit and confiscated a performance stage, sofas, a bed, tables, chairs and the personal possessions of several youth staying in the village. They also uprooted several newly-planted trees, according to an activist in the camp.

Whenever their plants are destroyed, Ashkar and the others always replant them.

Campers also struggle to balance the demands of their personal lives with their commitment to staying in Iqrit.

For Ashkar, it has meant coming back and forth between Iqrit and a café job, struggling to visit his family enough and finding the time to prepare for university studies that will begin this fall in Germany.

Drone crash

At approximately 1pm on Monday, just a couple of hours into the festival, a pair of monitoring drones launched from a nearby Israeli military base circled over the village a number of times.

One of the drones crashed in a field next to Iqrit’s historic cemetery, where several people were visiting the graves of relatives. Israeli soldiers came, loaded the device into a jeep and swiftly sped off.

Youth living in the village told The Electronic Intifada that drones are common in the area. It is not clear if the devices are used to monitor Iqrit or are common in the area because of the village’s close proximity to the border of Lebanon.

Asked about the drones, organizer Yazid Sadi said: “I think Israel is a bit worried about what we are doing here. They don’t like the idea of Palestinians from all … parts of Palestine coming together and uniting.”

Return without permission

Taking Iqrit’s cue, other groups have also decided to return to their villages without waiting for Israel’s permission.

Elsewhere, activists have returned to the villages of Kufr Birim and Ghabisiyya in similar initiatives. A new group, al-Awda (“Return”), is working to encourage the descendants of internally-displaced Palestinian refugees to exercise their right of return.

In Kufr Birim, the Israel Land Authority has issued demolition orders and threatens to raze a number of structures.

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An archive photo shows Irqit villagers being displaced by Zionist forces during the 1948 ethnic cleansing.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

“The Israeli authorities are scared of our return,” said Amir Toumie, 18, whose grandparents were relocated in Haifa after being expelled from Iqrit.

Toumie explained that the direct actions in Iqrit and other villages challenge Israel’s policy of pushing Palestinians off their land in present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“It is the same occupation here and there,” he said. “The conditions are different, but it’s the same struggle.”

Sowing division

Meanwhile, Israel is attempting to sow division between Christians and the rest of the Palestinian minority inside present-day Israel.

Most recently, Palestinian youth groups and grassroots organizations in Israel have decried the state’s increased efforts to recruit Christians for service in the military.

In February, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved legislation that differentiates between Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel by segregating their representation on a national employment commission.

That legislation also drew condemnation by Palestinian human rights groups in Israel, who issued a joint statement criticizing the move as “a policy that seeks to fragment the original people of the land into small groups with narrowed identities to replace their national identity.”

Toumie explained that the turnout for Iqrit’s festival — including Palestinians from across historical Palestine and various religious communities — is a rejoinder to Israel’s divide-and-conquer efforts.

“We are one people,” he said.

Despite Israel’s attempts to make life difficult for the campers and to fragment the broader Palestinian community, the youth vow to remain in Iqrit.

“We are staying here,” Amir Ashkar said. “We already lost the land, the most important thing, once. At this point we have nothing to lose.”

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Palestinians celebrate Easter in reclaimed Galilee village

Divestment passes at University of California at Riverside

NOVANEWS
Submitted by Nora Barrows

Last night, the student senate at the University of California at Riverside voted to support a resolution sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine calling on the university to pull its investments from US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.

Just before midnight Wednesday, student senators voted to uphold the resolution by a narrow margin — eight in favor, seven against — during an evening in which three separate California universities held divestment resolution hearings, dubbed adivestapalooza by student activists and boycott advocates on social media. UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbaraand San Diego State University held simultaneous resolution hearings but only UC Riverside passed divestment.

With limited resources, and organizing under pressure by university administrations and sustained intimidation efforts by Israel lobby groups on and off campus, student activists across the US are continuing to build divestment campaigns and push for justice, equality and human rights for Palestinians.

“Come back fighting”

This was the second time that a divestment resolution passed at UC Riverside.

In March 2013, the student senate voted in favor of divestment. Immediately after the vote, Zionist groups and Israel advocates had begun calling and emailing the student senators,claiming that the divestment resolution was “divisive” and that it “misrepresented” the student body. In April 2013, the student senate voted to rescind the divestment resolution. Activists with Students for Justice in Palestine at Riverside and the wider SJP-West coalition vowed to come back fighting.”

And this time, despite intense intimidation by anti-Palestinian individuals and groups reported by student activists to The Electronic Intifada, and despite the insistence by Zionist individuals testifying against the resolution during the hearing that it should be defeated, the senators voted in favor of a “resolution of neutrality and disassociation from US corporations profiting from occupation.” A one-minute video of the moment divestment was passed was posted to Facebook.

In the video, students can be seen in the audience holding signs that read “Divest now” and “Don’t make me fund the oppression of my family” while cheering and celebrating loudly after the announcement of the vote’s results.

Here are some selected tweets from supporters all over the world after last night’s divestment votes at UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State University.

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on Divestment passes at University of California at Riverside

On Treating Putin as Pariah

NOVANEWS

By Patrick J. Buchanan
 

 
“Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world … and effectively making it a pariah state.”

So wrote Peter Baker in Sunday’s New York Times. Yet if history is any guide, this “pariah policy,” even if adopted, will not long endure.

Three years after Khrushchev sent tanks into Hungary, he was touring the USA and celebrating with Ike the new “Spirit of Camp David.”

Half a year after Khrushchev moved missiles into Cuba, JFK was talking detente is his famous speech at American University.

Three weeks after Moscow incited the Arabs in the Six-Day War, Lyndon Johnson was meeting with Premier Alexei Kosygin in New Jersey, where the “Spirit of Glassboro,” was born.

So it went through the Cold War. Post-crises, U.S. presidents reached out to Soviet leaders. For they saw Russia as too large and too powerful to be isolated and ostracized like North Korea.

These presidents also understood that the American people wanted constant efforts made to reduce tensions and avoid war with a vast country with thousands of nuclear weapons. And presidents being politicians, be they Democrats JFK or LBJ, or Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon or Reagan, responded to this political reality.

We may not have liked the Soviets. We could not ignore them.

But if throwing Putin out of the frat house and off campus is an unsustainable policy, what of the hawkish calls for a return to Cold War containment and military countermeasures against Russia?

Well, let us inspect them one by one.

We are urged to go back to building a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. But this is a project of years. And before this shield was ever up and operational, Moscow could deploy hundreds of new offensive missiles targeted on Central and Western Europe.

How would that make our allies more secure? How would Angela Merkel respond to that?

Among Reagan’s achievements was persuading Russia to pull its triple-warhead SS-20s out of Eastern Europe, in return for our taking our Pershing and cruise missiles out of Western Europe.

Do we really want to reverse the Reagan triumph of 1987?

Some conservatives want to send arms to Ukraine. But given the performance of Ukraine’s army in the Crimean crisis, we would be provoking a war Ukraine could not win, while ensuring the casualty count would be higher.

And as almost no Americans favor U.S. “boots on the ground,” the result of a Russia-Ukraine war our arms provoked would be a beaten Ukrainian army and an occupied country.

Others urge Obama to move U.S. troops permanently into Poland, the Baltic states and Romania. Will Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Britain be sending troops as well?

Is there any time between now and eternity when the world’s richest continent will provide the soldiers for its own defense?

Another idea gaining currency is that we should start shipping oil and gas to Europe to reduce its dependency on Russia.

Certainly, U.S. energy independence, and the restoration of our lately lost industrial independence, is a good idea. But weaning Europe off the Russian gas on which it so heavily depends is another project of years, if not a decade.

Meanwhile, Russia could build pipelines to a fuel-hungry China and cement a Moscow-Beijing alliance, the rupture of which was Richard Nixon’s great achievement.

Are we thus left with no options, in Nixon’s phrase, a “pitiful helpless giant” in preventing Ukraine’s absorption by Russia?

By no means. But as Henry Kissinger argues, “the demonization of Putin is not a policy. It is an alibi for the absence of one.”

What we must recognize is that, Beltway bluster about U.S. troops in the Baltic and warships in the Black Sea aside, the United States is not going to war with Russia over Ukraine, or Estonia.

For we cannot defend Estonia either. By bringing the Baltic nations into NATO, as some of us loudly warned at that time, we were handing out war guarantees no sane president was going to honor.

As we hold a weak hand in Ukraine, we should let Putin take the lead.

If what he wants is a Ukraine that is not in NATO, a Ukraine that is decentralized, where the East retains cultural and economic ties to Russia while the West has ties to Europe, that is no threat to us.

What should we do if Putin seizes Southern Ukraine to Odessa?

What did Ike do about Hungary in 1956, or JFK do when the Wall went up? What did LBJ do about Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Reagan do when Solidarity was crushed?

Mature leaders, they accepted militarily what they could not prevent.

Like those presidents, Obama should take the military option off the table and use his diplomatic, political and economic weapons, and keep communications open. There are big issues, like terrorism, where we still agree.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on On Treating Putin as Pariah

Another stillborn Palestinian “reconciliation”

NOVANEWS
Submitted by Ali Abunimah

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Leaders of Hamas and members of a PLO delegation celebrate yet another “reconciliation” deal in Gaza City today. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Alongside the endless and sterile Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” is another long-running saga: the “peace process” between the main Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Hamas runs the wing of the Palestinian Authority besieged and isolated in the Gaza Strip, while Fatah, with full support from the United States, the European Union, Israel and Arab regimes, runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Today, with much fanfare, leaders of Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a “reconciliation” agreement in Gaza.

Its terms include forming a “national unity government” headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas within five weeks and elections in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank within six months.

Not so fast

“This is the good news we tell our people: the era of division is over,” Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-run wing of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, said at the press conference announcing the deal.

The excitement with which many Palestinians have greeted the deal reflects real public frustration with the long-running division and yearning for a truly national leadership.

But Haniyeh’s declaration is more than a little premature. This “reconciliation” is not going to be any more successful than previous deals signed in Cairo in 2011, in Doha in 2012 and again in Cairo in 2012.

Fundamental differences

The reasons are straightforward: the differences between Fatah and Hamas are fundamental and have not changed.

Hamas, although it is currently observing a November 2012 ceasefire it negotiated with Israel, remains committed to military resistance. Abbas remains committed to active collaboration – politely termed “security coordination” – aimed at dismantling all Palestinian capacity for military resistance to Israel.

There is no middle ground between these positions and no trust on the ground between the US-supervised, Abbas-run security forces and Hamas’ own police and military forces.

Good relations with occupation

Just yesterday the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Abbas reaffirmed that “as far as he was concerned the security coordination with Israel would continue as long as he remains in office.”

“It is a duty, not a choice,” Abbas said. “Even when there was no negotiation we continued the security coordination in order to prevent bloodshed and chaos. Our relationship with the [Israeli] military and security ranks is good, and we are interested in maintaining it.”

Following the last West Bank-Gaza elections in 2006, Abbas’ authority conspired with Israel, Egypt and the United States to undermine the national unity government of the time. The US-backed coup plot led to a brief and bloody Palestinian civil war and the current political division between the West Bank and Gaza.

Abbas: Israel’s unshakable ally

Abbas has remained one of Israel’s most formidable allies in its war against resistance in general and Hamas in particular. Israel gave Abbas advance warning of its 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. Yet Abbas did nothing to warn Palestinians and spare the lives of the 1,400 mostly civilians Israel killed.

Abbas associates have consistently pressed for Israel’s devastating siege on Gaza to be tightened.

In 2011 alone, according to Israeli sources, Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority held 764 joint security meetings aimed at preventing Palestinian resistance to the occupation.

And as recently as 2012, Abbas publicly begged Israel for weapons which he said he would he would use to ensure Israel’s “security.”

The Abbas-run Palestinian Authority plays precisely the same role as the collaborationist “South Lebanon Army” Israel armed and financed during its 22-year-long occupation of southern Lebanon.

It is simply absurd to imagine a “national unity government” in which one party supports armed resistance and the other side remains fully committed to serving as the Israeli occupation’s native enforcers.

Doomed to fail

It took only hours for Israel and its sponsor the United States to announce their opposition to the latest reconciliation deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would convene his “security cabinet” to discuss the matter, and declared that Abbas could choose between “peace” with Israel or peace with Hamas, but not both.

The US State Department announced – laughably – that the deal could complicate nonexistent peace efforts.

The bottom line is this: the Abbas-run PA exists and functions solely at the discretion of Israel and the United States. Israel will not allow a “reconciliation” or elections to proceed if it deems otherwise.

Abbas is permitted no room for maneuver by his handlers. The US recently warned him sternly against dissolving the Palestinian Authority, and now it is once again objecting to reconciliation. Israel and the US want the Palestinian Authority to remain precisely as it is, capable only of serving Israel’s needs.

So why sign the deal?

If there’s no chance of success, why would Hamas and Fatah sign yet another reconciliation deal? For Hamas, it is a move of desperation, isolated as it is in Gaza by the Israeli siege and the US-supported Egyptian coup regime.

For Abbas it is a win-win. He is using Hamas to get back at the US and Israel over the failed negotiations, much the same way as his recent signing of a number of UN treaties. At the same time he knows the deal will go nowhere because Israel and the US will not allow it.

But by signing (another) reconciliation he boosts his own position, washes away his own complicity in Israel’s crimes and – with the blessing of Hamas – cements his image as a legitimate “national leader.”

Palestinians should make no mistake: any reconciliation that leaves a collaborationist PA regime still functioning as Israel’s enforcer can never produce the united leadership capable of standing up to Israel that they yearn for.

While it may serve the short-term political interests of factions, such a deal would only further compromise the rights of the Palestinian people and damage their struggle for liberation.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Another stillborn Palestinian “reconciliation”

New campaign resource boosts efforts to burst SodaStream’s bubble

NOVANEWS
Submitted by Maureen Clare Murphy

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Burstthebubble.org features a series of short videos which bust SodaStream’s spin.

As the campaign to boycott SodaStream gains momentum, supporters have a new resource to use in their advocacy and education work.

The slick website burstthebubble.org, launched by Jewish Voice for Peace’s Seattle chapter, makes the case in plain language for why the carbonated beverage device manufacturer should be boycotted. SodaStream’s attempts to brand its product to consumers concerned with social responsibility is busted in a series of short videos which are simple and effective.

SodaStream’s products are assembled in a plant on occupied Palestinian land by exploited Palestinian laborers, the website explains.

Despite the corporation’s attempt to promote a picture of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence at its factory, the purpose of SodaStream’s plant in the Mishor Adumim industrial park “is not to improve the lives of Palestinians living under occupation but to pad the pockets of an international corporation,” it is stated in one of the videos.

Ninety percent of the plant laborers are Palestinians, who “have little choice but to work for the settlers who exploit the land that was theirs” because of Israeli occupation and colonization’s destruction of the Palestinian economy.

Meanwhile, “SodaStream gets kickbacks from the Israeli government for profitting from an illegal occupation,” enjoying state benefits for participating in Israel’s illegal settlement colony enterprise.

The consumer who purchases SodaStream products gives “money to a company that financially supports an Israeli settlement. The Palestinians who have been dispossessed get nothing.”

The Burst the Bubble website adds that SodaStream products are mislabeled as “Made in Israel” or with an address for a business center near Tel Aviv airport, or with the non-existent “Mishor” as the place of origin.

The reality of SodaStream’s manufacturing practice conflicts with its branding itself as an environmentally responsible choice for consumers.

“How do you sell someone a product mired in a history of war, occupation and dispossession? By convincing them that they’re saving the Earth!” one of the videos explains, adding that this type of marketing is calledgreenwashing.”

“Another vanity kitchen gadget is probably not going to save the world,” the video adds.

Feeling the pressure

According to the Burst the Bubble site, SodaStream spent $180 million in marketing last year. But this hasn’t prevented it from feeling the pressure of the grassroots boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Earlier this week, Earth Day Network dropped SodaStream from its roster of official sponsors after campaigners called on it to cut ties with the corporation.

SodaStream’s bottom line also suffered because of the controversy around its spokesmodel Scarlett Johansson’s conflict of interest in representing the corporation while serving as a humanitarian ambassador for the anti-poverty group Oxfam, which opposes trade from Israeli settlements.

Johansson resigned her post from Oxfam but continues to be dogged by questions over the affair, even in a puff cover-story piece published by Vanity Fair.

When asked by Vanity Fair’s fawning reporter about accusations of serving as “the new face of apartheid,” Johnansson attributed the criticism of her role to anti-Semitism rather than addressing the substance of the criticism.

This is a tired and transparent tactic used by Israel’s apologists when they have no basis for their unprincipled support for business as usual with Israel and, in Johansson’s case, their profiteering from the occupation.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on New campaign resource boosts efforts to burst SodaStream’s bubble

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