Archive | December 13th, 2015

Trump — ‘No More Muslims In America!’

NOVANEWS

The world reels with shock as Trump says: “I am calling on a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States!”

THE  CONTROVERSIAL  COMMENTS THAT HAVE CAUSED OUTRAGE:

“We should definitely disallow any Muslims from coming in. Any of them. The reason is simple: we can’t identify what their attitude is…. We have no idea whether they love us or hate us or want to bomb us…. I am calling for a TOTAL AND COMPLETE  SHUTDOWN OF MUSLIMS ENTERING THE UNITED STATES!”

Here are some laughable comments expressing the politically correct outrage that is now so de rigueur:  

Jeb Bush, a rival for the Republican presidential ticket, accuses Trump of being “unhinged”. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, calls Trump’s comments “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive”. US Senator Lindsay Graham rages: “You know how you can make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell!”

Does Trump have any influential supporters? Surprisingly, Rupert Murdoch appears to be a fan. “Has Trump gone too far?” he tweeted. “Regardless, public is obsessed on radical Muslim dangers. Complete refugee pause to fix vetting makes sense.”

Donald Trump has often been compared to Hitler. His extraordinary appeal to many voters stems from his political incorrectness. Unlike most politicians, Trump has a reputation for telling the truth as he sees it. He doesn’t mince his words. Here is a sample of his outrageous wit and wisdom

Announcing his candidacy for the presidency: ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people who have lots of problems [which include] drugs and being rapists.’

On immigration: ‘I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.’

On Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, who Trump disliked for her questioning: ‘You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.’

On his own wealth: ‘I’m using my own money, I’m not using the lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I’m really rich.’

On President Obama: ‘If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.’

On presidential rival Carly Fiorina: ‘Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that? The face of our next president?’

On Republican Senator John McCain, who was a PoW in the Vietnam War: ‘He’s a hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.’

On comedian Rosie O’Donnell, with whom he has a feud: ‘If I were running [talk show] The View, I’d fire her. I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say: ‘Rosie, you’re fired’.

I would now like to refer the reader to a controversial new article on Trump by Kevin MacDonald in the Occidental Observer: Trump’s Statement on Muslim Exclusion.

“Once again, Donald Trump is ahead of the curve,” MacDonald begins. “and taking all the oxygen out of the room for the other Republican candidates. His statement calling for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on’ is completely at odds with the West’s commitment to multiculturalism and diversity.”

Trump’s call for a total ban on Muslim immigration into America is based on an opinion poll that states, in so many words, that Muslims are a pretty dangerous lot on the whole and so letting them into America makes no sense at all. Trump  is not saying that every Muslim in America right now is a terrorist. He is saying that a small minority, based on opinion poll findings, have terrorist tendencies and attitudes. They are thought criminals just waiting for an opportunity to explode into violence. They not only back shariah law but think it is permissible to use violence to punish people who give offence to Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

Even if 1% of Muslims in the US hold these views, MacDonald argues, that would be “unacceptable”. This is because there are 5-8 million Muslims in the US, “so if 1% were potential terrorists, that would mean there are thousands of potential jihadists and Muslims who hate America. So why import more?”

Prima facie, this would seem to makes sense, even if, as has been pointed out recently, the opinion poll upon which Trump relies so heavily is unreliable. Trump’s call for a complete moratorium on Muslim immigration to America links to a survey from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. Here is a slightly abbreviated quote from MacDonald’s article:

According to the just-released survey of Muslims, a majority (51%) agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.”

More than half (51%) of U.S. Muslims polled also believe either that they should have the choice of American or shariah courts, or that they should have their own tribunals to apply shariah.

These notions were powerfully rejected by the broader population.

Even more troubling, is the fact that nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, “It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.”

Nearly one-fifth of Muslim respondents said that the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country.

Okay, let’s be frank: the Frank Gaffney opinion poll quoted above has been roundly dismissed as biased and methodologically unsound. (See Trump Proposal to Ban Muslims from US Relies on Debunked Poll from Pro-Israel Think Tank.”). As far as I know, this attempt to “debunk” the Gaffney poll has occurred only within the last few days, well after Trump made his original anti-Muslim comments.

Writing on Mondoweiss, Adam Horowitz states:

Trump’s idea rests on research from the Center for Security Policy, a neocon think tank run by Frank Gaffney who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has been called “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Trump’s statement quotes a July 2015 poll from the Center for Security Policy and claims that 25% of Muslims living in the United States “agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad.” The poll, which received much coverage in the right-wing media, was debunked as soon as it was released.

Writing in the Huffington Post Nathan Lean and Jordan Denari explained: ‘This survey should not be taken seriously. It comes from an organization with a history of producing dubious claims and “studies” about the threat of shariah, and was administered using an unreliable methodology.”

This survey does not represent the views of American Muslims. It only represents the views of the 600 Muslims that it polled.

Let’s assume that Horowitz is correct and that the 25% figure cited by Gaffney is inaccurate. Let’s go even further and grant that it is a wild exaggeration to say that 25% of Muslims living in the United States “agreed that violence against Americans in the United States is justified as a part of the globe jihad.”

In my view, even if we accept as a proven fact that  the Gaffney poll is unreliable and that the 25% figure has been grossly exaggerated, this still does not invalidate MacDonald’s point that “even 1% would be unacceptable.”

In other words, though 25% could well be too high a figure, surely it is not unreasonable to argue that maybe 15% is nearer the mark? And if you happen to think 15% is still too high a figure, how about 5%? No? Still too high for you?

Okay, so let’s make it 1%!

It seems to me that anyone who claims that not even 1% of Muslims in America are in favour of shariah law, being ready and willing to apply violence against anyone who mocks Islam, is basically claiming that 99% of American Muslims are model citizens. Can you believe this? That virtually every Muslim in America is quite happy to see the Qur’an vilified and the prophet Mohammed held up to scorn? I cannot believe it. Far more than 1%, in my view, would be likely to resort to extreme violence if subjected to these abominable provocations. One could hardly expect otherwise.

Here is what Trump says:

Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victim of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again.

“In a sane society, this would be common sense,” MacDonald adds. “Indeed, in Trump’s speech at Mt. Pleasant, he noted that even 1% would be unacceptable. Quite right. The usual estimates are that there are 5–8 million Muslims in the US, so if 1% were potential terrorists, that would mean there are thousands of potential jihadists and Muslims who hate America. So why import more?”

It is worth noting that even if the Gaffney poll has been called into question for its bias and methodological unsoundness, its basic findings have nevertheless been validated by several other independent polls that have nothing to do with Gaffney. MacDonald lists no fewer than eleven independent polls in the appendix to his article. It stretches credibility to the breaking point to assert that all these eleven polls are equally biased and invalid. (Scroll down to the Appendix of MacDonald’s article, here).

MacDonald has written exhaustively about America’s immigration policies. In fact, he is an expert on the subject. I think he is correct to say that “US immigration policy has nothing to do with economic need … but rather it is intended to increase non-Whites at the expense of the White population.”

MacDonald is too polite and diplomatic to say what needs to be said much more emphatically: that the Jewish-led attempt to flood Europe and America with Third World immigrants is an act of pure malice and amounts to White genocide.

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Gerry Spence on America Menaced by Impending Police State

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by Dr:  Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: I am posting some reflections on Gerry Spence’sPolice State, an ominous book, finely wrought, that we should all read. Besides being my close friend, Gerry is a lawyer par excellence, as well as being someone possessed of deeply artistic, humanistic, and ethical disposition. The book pertains to the situation here in America, but as recent events in Paris, San Bernidino, and Colorado Springs confirm, we are in danger of moving without realizing it toward some kind of ‘global police state,’ all in the name of security, trampling on the rights and self-esteem of billions of people and extinguishing the freedom of all. Such a devastating scenario cannot be separated from the predatory features of global capitalism in its present neoliberal phase.]

 

America Menaced: An Impending Police State

Gerry Spence, Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015) $27.99 (hardcover)(Amazon $19.43; Kindle $14.99)

In an America gripped by one story after another of culpable police violence, it is hard to imagine a more timely book than Police State. Not only is the topic of urgent relevance, the author is supremely qualified by a long life of experience and reflection to give us an authoritative bird’s eye view. Gerry Spence, a trial lawyer par excellence, with the extraordinary credential of never having lost a criminal case, which is some achievement, considering that he has been practicing law for well over half a century. Here on the West Coast, splitting his residence between native Wyoming and California, Spence is as close to being a celebrity as a lawyer can get. He was a nightly TV commentator of the notorious O.J. Simpson trial and has been the lead lawyer in a whole series of high profile criminal cases whose vivid style of oratory creates unforgettable impressions on the part of those lucky enough to have Spence on their side or those so unfortunate as to have him as their adversary.

Somehow, Spence also somehow finds time to write novels, publish books of superb photographs, compose poems, and even paint pictures and photomontages that no art gallery would be ashamed to display. Additionally, he founded a Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming that has over the years trained hundreds of criminal defense lawyers to become more effective in judicial settings, not primarily by knowing the law better, but by learning how to win the battle of hearts and minds of juries and judges. It is Spence’s strong conviction that gaining the psychological edge in judicial cases decides many more cases than what is learned in even the best law schools. In short, Spence is a remarkable polymath who both defies the imperative of specialization that haunts our age and dispenses wisdom in a manner that only a modern folk hero from Wyoming can do. And this is not all. Spence’s personality (and ego) overflows any container, whether it be geographic borders or the walls of a courtroom.

Such a vivid and fascinating presence creates a temptation to talk endlessly about this exceptional man rather than the compelling story he is telling in Police State. While struggling to resist the temptation, I should disclose that Gerry Spence is a cherished friend, we share intimacies over lunch whenever we both happen to be in Santa Barbara at the same time, which unhappily for me is not often enough. We agree on most core issues, and fight about how to interpret the trivial ones, which is I think which is what always allows deep friendship to flourish.

Now to the book. It consists of detailed and engagingly described narratives of eight cases, several of national prominence, in which Spence served as the lead lawyer of a high powered defense team. The cases are framed by a more general introductory discussion of the national setting that produces abuses of power by the apparatus of state law enforcement, and especially the police. Particular attention is given to the injustices experienced by those marginalized by the color of their skin, heretical life style and beliefs, and lowly class standing. So great are his persuasive skills that he credibly casts Imelda Marcos, the notorious widow of the Filipino autocrat Fernando Marcos, among those whose innocence has been violated by spurious criminal charges of stealing public funds. I have to admit that reading the Marcos chapter made me aware that brilliant lawyering can sometimes come at the expense of criminal justice! Every defendant deserves a competent legal defense, yet not one that successfully whitewashes the fully documented cruel criminal record of the Marcos years of shared rulership in the Philippines, a record exposed in a museum in Manila that I have visited. A more general question is raised. Spence makes clear that a gifted trial lawyer can make the difference between winning and losing a case, but does that seems to mean that the guilty as well as the innocent get the benefits.

Actually, the Marcos case is an outlier in the book, and its removal would hardly be noticed. Spence’s preoccupation and primary knowledge is associated with how those accused of crime in this country are treated by the police, in courtrooms, and prisons, and it is these various facets of their (mis)treatment that is the subject-matter of the other seven cases. What gives coherence to these widely disparate attempts to counteract the worst features of the system is Spence’s double vision: on the one side, he exposes the deep roots of injustice by way of police and governmental action and on the other, he depicts the capacity of determined and capable lawyering to overcome the biases of the system by rendering verdicts responsive to the dictates of justice. After all, Spence won all these cases, and so something must be working right.

In truly authoritarian states, the outcomes are known before the trial begins, contains no surprises, and accords with the wishes of the government as made known through the tenor and content of the prosecution. In effect, in true police states the quality of the criminal defense is irrelevant, which it is not, at least not yet, in the United States. This raises a question as to whether Spence’s characterization of the U.S. as a police state is hyperbolic, and if so, whether this is useful in alerting Americans to a mounting danger.

Although written pre-Trump what Spence has to say about crime, law, and justice in America is deeply troubling, yet in the end he proposes recognizing the challenge, a program of reform, and hope for the future. His indictment of present trends is deep, and resonates with recent disclosures confirming racially motivated police killings, and their cover up, in several American cities: “The police belong to a culture separate from ours. Police departments are often like the gangs they encounter—both strive to keep their crimes secret.” (9) More ominous is the link noted between what the police do and what the state wants done: “What I will show is that police brutality and killings are the product of the system, the specter of an enslaving police state is clearly visible on the horizon.” (9) In the end, Spence challenges us as citizens to act to avoid this destiny: “This dismal prophesy will prevail, as indeed it always has, and always will, unless we, the people have the courage to take up this critical challenge and bring about a new police culture for the safety and well-being of we, the people who still wait patiently to enjoy the promise of America.” (10)

Spence connects police brutality and contrived prosecutions with what he calls “the rotten underbelly of Power.” (63) By capitalizing ‘power’ Spence is expressing his conviction that what is responsible for police behavior should be traced to those in control of governmental institutions who act in connivance with those who control money. After encountering this pattern in many of his cases, Spence believes that “the Constitution can be set aside by Power at its whim, that the FBI could, and did, change the law as if it, not the people, created the laws of the land.” In this spirit, he asks, “Should we provide a name for such Power? Are we on the outer edges of the cliff looking down into the depths of a totalitarian state from which there is no return.” (63) At another point in the book Spence poses some underlying rhetorical questions: “Are we capable of distinguishing between our fantasy, our hope, yes, our faith that we are free on the one hand, from the alarming approach of a police state on the other? And if we discover the truth, can we bear it? Will we confront it?” (238) As a Jeffersonian populist, Spence unabashedly situates his hopes for change on the unpredictable energies of ‘the people,’ exhibiting no trust whatsoever in either government or political parties as both are presumably presently disabled by being rendered deferential to the whims and priorities of that mysterious force, the Power.’

Most of Spence’s cases do not focus on race as the explanation for or atmosphere of police abuse, but his defense of Dennis Williams who spent 17 agonizing years on death row after being framed by Cook County police in Illinois involved a mixture of racist abuse and institutional corruption of the worst sort. Spence exhibits his keen awareness that racism compounds the problems, infecting our attitudes and behavior as if a poison we didn’t realize was circulating in the body politics. As Spence puts it, “I know that racism is alive and throbbing beneath the surface throughout America…Our personal racism is never acknowledged, not even to our closest friends, not to our spouses, not even to ourselves.” (237) This is the message conveyed by the recently formed Black Lives Matter, and also articulated with subtlety and passion in the best-selling book, Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and in the compelling poetic rendering of Claudia Rankine in Citizen: An American Lyric.

At the end, Spence argues that whether it is framing a witness, coercing a confession, shooting defenseless and innocent persons, there is a depraved unity of purpose being displayed. The separate stories “are essentially the same story: a story about the same perverse incentive of Power—the uncontrolled psychotic urge to dominate and intimidate the helpless in response to Power’s compulsion to serve itself.” (309) Even more darkly, “Power has one purpose: to satisfy itself. In doing so Power kills, wrongfully persecutes, and criminally imposes itself on the innocent. (311) We all know the devil lives in the details, and so it is important to read through these cases to grasp the specifics that lends credence to this dire assessment.

And yet, Spence is far from one-dimensional even if we limit our concern to law and the American political scene. His hopeful side, although not easily escaping from the dark shadows cast by his overwhelmingly disconcerting experience over the decades, is not as revolutionary as one would expect given his diagnosis of where we are and where we are heading. After the narratives of the cases, Spence offers a sensible 12-step program for law enforcement reform (an odd and suggestive echo of the famous AA formula for overcoming alcohol addiction), which if implemented would make police better trained, more accountable, and operating in an atmosphere where prosecutors and judges were more sensitized to the rights of the accused.

It is troublesome that this humane and sensible set of recommendations presupposes what is most lacking, that is, a political will among elites that is driven by integrity and a commitment to fairness rather than beholden to what Spence calls ‘the Power,’ money and status. In other words, if the political will were realigned toward criminal justice such a transformed criminal justice system would be spontaneously generated and reforms superfluous, but if the existing established order is being so challenged it will resist vigorously for all the reasons that Spence delineates. Here Spence allows us to drift on our own, not giving us much of a hint as to how to discredit the prevailing political will that he so vigorously deplores.

The most we are told is that during Spence’s long lifetime some good things have happened to women and minorities, and thus it is not a fool’s dream to suppose that a similar dynamic will make positive change happen so that those who are currently most abused by police and law enforcement will find themselves better protected. Maybe the furor generated by the Ferguson killing of Michael Brown and several related incidents of police homicide will produce the kind of political energy that will produce the results that Spence advocates and justice demands. Time will tell.

Gerry Spence brings his fine book, with its urgent message, to a fitting close: “One thing I know: An honestly informed nation can be trusted to eventually do right. Justice is the petulant child of truth.” (326)

We will have to wait and see, and more actively, do all we can to make these ugly truths known, and counteracted. There is no better place to begin than by reading this compelling book by Gerry Spence that tells us all we need to know if we want to renew our vows of citizenship by action and engagement. As long as we stay quiet in the gated communities of our imaginations, we will regress even further from being citizens of a free society to becoming subjects of a police state.

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US university says sorry for Palestinian flag ultimatum

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Image result for PALESTINE FLAG
George Washington University president Steven Knapp has issued an apology to a student who was told to take down his Palestinian flag.

A university campus police officer entered Ramie Abounaja’s room on October 26 and told him to take down the Palestinian flag that he had hanging from his window.

The officer said he had received multiple complaints and that the flag was in violation of the housing code.

Visitors to the university confirmed many other national flags hanging from dorm rooms without being taken down.

A week later, Ramie Abounaja received a warning letter from the university, threatening future disciplinary action, despite the fact he had removed the flag.

“As a member of the larger residential community we hope that you will be respectful of your peers and be aware of your behavior. The act of an individual has a profound impact on the community,” it read.

Unsure of what he was in violation of, Ramie wrote a letter back. In it, he explained his reason for hanging the Palestinian flag: “I was motivated to do this after I had seen dozens of different banners and flags hung outside other residential campus living spaces throughout my three years here at GW. I felt like I was being singled-out, because of my heritage and the viewpoint of my speech, for something I’ve seen dozens of students, fraternities and other student groups do in my three years at GW.”

Civil rights groups called the order a violation of free speech and said the actions pointed to anti-Palestinian sentiment.

Students for Justice in Palestine at GW said: “Flags of other countries hang out of dorm windows with no disciplinary consequence. Selective reinforcement of these rules is discrimination.”

Universities in the US stand accused of cracking down on pro-Palestinian speech, with a high profile example in the state of Illinois where professor Steven Salaita was dismissed after tweeting about Nazi assault on Gaza in 2014.

The recent Palestinian Exception to Free Speech report revealed intensifying suppression Nazi criticism on campuses: “Israel’s fiercest defenders in the United States — a network of advocacy organizations, public relations firms, and think tanks — have intensified their efforts to stifle criticism of Israeli government policies. Rather than engage such criticism on its merits, these groups leverage their significant resources and lobbying power to pressure universities, government actors, and other institutions to censor or punish advocacy in support of Palestinian rights.”

Palestine Legal responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression in the first 6 months of 2015. 80% of those were aimed at students and scholars.

The report highlights a number of tactics used to quash pro-Palestinian feeling in universities, including academic sanctions.

Northeastern University in Boston suspended a student group the spring of 2014 after members distributed flyers describing Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Around the same time, San Francisco State University investigated Professor Rabab Abdulhadi for going on a research trip to Palestine after Nazi  advocacy group accused her of meeting with terrorists.

Palestinian Legal wrote to George Washington University, demanding they withdraw its warning letter and threat to sanction the student.

University President Steven Knapp said he has apologized to Abounaja and that the student had been subjected to a flawed process: “I have instructed the relevant offices to end the practice of sending warning letters to students solely because of a reported violation of a university policy. I have also instructed them to ensure consistent enforcement of all university policies.”

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Washington DC Student Forced to Remove Palestinian Flag

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Image result for US POLICE CARTOON
Sputnik

A student at George Washington University has been forced by police to remove a Palestinian flag they had hanging from their dorm room — despite countless flags hanging from other windows in the dormitories.

Ramie Abounaja, a 20-year-old pre-med student has also been threatened with future disciplinary action despite complying with the police, the Intercept reported.

On October 26, a police officer arrived at Abounaja’s Washington, DC, dorm room to order the removal of flag. The officer cited receiving multiple complaints and explained that he would not be leaving until it was removed, which the student complied with.

The following week, the student received a letter from the school’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which oversees disciplinary issues. “This letter serves as a warning that this behavior is a violation of the ‘Code of Student Conduct’ and/or the Resident Community Conduct Guidelines,” it began.

“As a member of the larger residential community we hope that you will be respectful of your peers and be aware of your behavior. The act of an individual has a profound impact on the community. … Subsequent reports naming you as a subject may result in disciplinary action taken by the university.”

The student noted that other students have been allowed to continue hanging their national flags from their windows, and that he is being selectively targeted.

“I felt like I was being singled out, because of my heritage and the viewpoint of my speech, for something I’ve seen dozens of students, fraternities and other student groups do in my three years at GW,” Abounaja wrote in a letter to the school.

Nationwide, there appears to be a crackdown taking place on pro-Palestinian speech and particularly against the BDS movement which aims to boycott Israel over their treatment of the Palestinian people.

Palestine Legal, a US civil rights advocacy organization, has reported 140 instances of suppression of Palestine advocacy in the first six months of 2015, 80 percent of which were on college campuses, the Intercept reported.

After Palestine Legal published an open letter to the George Washington University regarding their treatment of Abounaja and demanding an apology, explanation, and for them to retract their future disciplinary notice, the university’s media relations released a statement claiming that it wasn’t discrimination and that no students may have flags hanging from the school’s housing.

“The George Washington University is committed to fostering a welcoming and safe environment for every member of the GW community, and we encourage students to share their rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences and views with their peers. GW has not banned any flags from its campus; however, the university’s Residential Community Conduct Guidelines prohibit the hanging of any object outside of a residence hall window (Section III. 7). These guidelines apply to all on-campus housing residents.”

Following the school’s statement, Students for Justice in Palestine at GW released a statement of their own, calling the university on their hypocrisy.

The student group alleged that the selective enforcement points to an anti-Palestine sentiment and that “flags of other countries hang out of dorm windows with no disciplinary consequence.”

They continued on to state that “selective reinforcement of these rules is discrimination. In this moment of rising Islamophobia in the United States, it is contradictory that a university that advertises inclusivity and diversity would act like this.”

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Nazi soldiers occupy Palestinian house to set up military base

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al Khalil, occupied Palestine – For the last 15 days the family of Abu Shykri Al-Atrarshi have had no access to the top two floors of their house, which was illegally taken over by the Nazi occupation forces and where they set up a military base.

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Ten Nazi soldiers suddenly showed up at the house in the neighbourhood of Abu Sheineh, Al Khalil; they broke in by smashing a window in the door, took the key and demanded that the family vacate the third floor. The soldiers did not have any documentation to explain or justify the incursion nor did they give an explanation to the family why their house was being taken over. Any questions are ignored and the third floor as well as the roof top are now off limits.

Since Nazi soldiers arrived they have broken the windows, and shot holes in the water tank which supplies clean water to the household. They then took all the blankets on the premises and used them to dry the water leaking from the tanks. The family also reported that once the water supply was fixed the Nazi soldiers contaminated the water and used the apartment and roof as a toilet.

Nazi soldiers never leave the apartment empty, but a few times per day there is a shift change. This happens at different times every day so there is no knowing when, and the soldiers move in and out as they please anyway. This means there can be soldiers moving throughout the building at any time, terrifying the family- especially the young children who no longer dare to leave the house on their own. The soldiers use the roof as a lookout and also frequently fire weapons such as teargas, from there into the surrounding neighbourhood.

The three story house is home to 13 people, now crowded into two small floors- including a young disabled child. They have no idea how long the soldiers will stay, or if the family will get their house back at all. They contacted the local DCO (District coordination office) who advised them to get a lawyer, which they did. The lawyer has now started the process to take the case to Nazi court in Haifa. However Abu Shykri Al-Atrarsh has had no information on when the case will be heard or when a judgement can be expected. This, as in many cases, can take months if not years and in the meanwhile the family is trapped. Abu Shakri believes the army is trying to make the family leave the building altogether, but they are resolutely staying put.

This family now has to try to live their life underneath the very people who have broken into, stolen and disrespected their home. The daily struggle of living under the occupation is hardship enough but having your own home taken from under your eyes, and not being able to do anything about it is absolutely heartbreaking.

ISM today took pictures of the Nazi soldiers in the building to help the family evidence their presence there, which is needed for the court case. Every time the family has tried to take pictures themselves the Nazi soldiers have taken their phones and deleted the pictures.

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In Syria the West Embraces Sectarianism

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By Alexander Mercouris

One of the most troubling developments in the Syrian crisis is the West’s embrace of religious sectarianism.

The argument goes as follows: in order to defeat the Islamic State the West has to overthrow Syria’s President Assad because as an Alawite he is unacceptable to Syria’s Sunni majority who supposedly prefer the Sunni Islamic State to him.

This argument has recently been taken further by John Bolton — the US’s former ambassador to the UN — who is actually calling for the partition of Syria and Iraq on sectarian lines, with a “Sunni-stan” replacing the Islamic State/Daesh.

Bolton at least has the honesty to admit that this is in part a geopolitical play. However is the premise behind the argument as couched by its more moderate advocates even true?

The one opinion poll carried out in Iraq and Syria suggests not.

It found little difference in political attitudes between Sunnis and Shias. It found that both Sunnis and Shias overwhelmingly want their countries to remain united.

It shows strong support in Syria for President Assad and very slight support for the Islamic State — many of whose fighters come from abroad — in both Iraq and Syria.

In Iraq only 5% of the population has a positive view of the Islamic State/Daesh.

In Syria that rises to 21%, a figure that almost certainly overstates its support. A better reflection of its actual support is its core support, which is just 7%.

This whole idea that the best way to fight the Sunni sectarianism of the Islamic State is by embracing Sunni sectarianism is very alarming. One wonders whether those who call for it really understand what they are calling for?

It is a repudiation of Western values. The West claims to stand for freedom, democracy and secularism. It mistakenly embraced the Arab Spring on that basis. Now it seems the West is prepared to embrace the opposite.

It tries to solve the problem of the Islamic State by creating something — a sectarian Sunni state — that looks almost as dangerous.

It grossly misrepresents the nature of the Syrian government, treating it as if it were a sectarian entity when it is in fact a secular one.

This constant harping on the fact that President Assad comes from an Alawite family ignores the fact the government he leads is not sectarian but Arab nationalist and secular.

President Assad is married to a Sunni, most of his ministers are Sunni, as are most officials and diplomats who serve his government. So are most of the army’s officers and most of its soldiers. Claims that most of the Sunni officers and soldiers defected when the war began and that the army is now largely Alawite are unverified and almost certainly untrue.

It is not President Assad who is the violent religious sectarian. It is his opponents.

It is impossible to avoid the feeling that this latest argument — that President Assad has to be overthrown to persuade Syria’s Sunni to fight the Islamic State — is not really an argument at all but a rationalisation to justify the Western obsession with overthrowing him.

Overthrowing the man who leads the government whose army is actually fighting the Islamic State hardly seems the best way to fight it.

Embracing Sunni sectarianism to defeat the Islamic State looks not only unworkable — it assumes Sunni sectarians are prepared to ally themselves with the West so the West can defeat other Sunni sectarians — but seems calculated to do the opposite of what the West says it wants by entrenching Sunni sectarianism and jihadism in Syria.

To such follies does the obsession with regime change lead.

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Five home truths about the Syrian conflict

NOVANEWS

Five home truths about the Syrian conflict

Whilst the world’s attention is focussed on Russia’s latest airstrikes against Syrian rebel targets, there are some home truths that both the pro and anti Assad media outlets and analysts are conveniently ignoring, writes Abdul Latif-Halimi.

1. Battlefield situation since March 2015

The Assad regime has lost Idlib (provincial capital); Jisr ash-Shughur (strategic city in Idlib province); large areas of Sahl al-Ghab; Abu Dhuhur military airport; Syria’s last border crossing with Jordan; Palmyra and huge areas of Syria’s south-eastern desert to the east of Bir Qassab (gained by ISIS); as well as small areas around the Homs-Damascus highway, including a small-town known as Qaryatayn (gained by ISIS).

In terms of gains, Assad and his allies have captured: large areas of the Qalamoun Mountains above Damascus, and have made significant inroads into Az-Zabadani that recently resulted in a major ceasefire deal.

It is worth noting that the areas of eastern Syria (gained by ISIS) and Qalamoun mountains (gained by Hezbollah and Assad) are largely uninhabitable but represent the geographic depth towards Iraq and Lebanon respectively.

2. Assad and his allies have been struggling.

I have been saying this for four years and will continue to say it because it is the fundamental reality of this war, which even Assad himself has now recognised publicly: the regime has a chronic, structural and unfixable personnel problem.

Assad’s core support base constitutes 12% of the Syrian population, which simply by the laws of mathematics and nature cannot sustain a long-term war of heavy attrition. While there are obviously some Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze that are a part of the Syrian military, the army is no longer an effective or dominant force.

Syrian president Bashar al Assad

Syrian president Bashar al Assad

At first, it needed the creation of the NDF to support it. Then it needed Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Then it needed Iraqi Shi’ite militias and Afghan Shi’ite mercenaries to support it – and the common theme is one: “we need help”.

Moreover, the Druze have essentially stepped away from the regime in recent months and are no longer willing their young men to leave Suweida (a Druze region) to fight across Syrian territory for Assad’s regime.

On top of that, the Alawite community has been exhausted. There are few men left.

There aren’t enough troops to complement Assad’s air superiority and to take back territory on the ground.

That is why Assad has struggled, is struggling and will ultimately be defeated. The fundamentals are heavily stacked against him.

3. Russia context

Putin is seen as leading a Russian resurgence. He is portrayed as the strongman and a “doer” who gets things done, as opposed to the “cerebral” and “timid” Obama.

Unpack that and see how Russia is doing.

In terms of achievements, Russia has in the past two years annexed Crimea and destabilised eastern Ukraine, which is now governed by a pro-West and pro-EU government. Putin has very high approval ratings amongst Russians.

In terms of failures, sanctions and collapsing oil prices have demoralised the Russian economy. Russia’s GDP will shrink by 3.7% this year, as the ruble (Russia’s currency) has fallen by around half in the past 12 months.

What’s on the agenda? Peace summit in Paris to try and resolve the Ukraine crisis, which has quietened down recently due to a ceasefire that’s held for three months.

4. Russia intervention

Anyone who tells you they know the precise rationale with which Russia deployed its 36 jets and 2,000 troops to Syria isn’t being straight with you. We have no way of knowing the exact objectives and purposes for which this step has been taken.

Is it a move to support the regime generally? A narrow focus on protecting Russia’s interests in Latakia and Tartous? A means of building leverage in anticipation of a serious diplomatic peace process? An attempt to become the inheritor of Assad’s “area” at the expense of Iranian influence? An attempt to exploit US absence and lead a new, long-term alliance in Syria and Iraq under the pretense of fighting ISIS? A means of stacking cards on the table as Ukraine talks build?

Vladmir Putin

Vladmir Putin

Personally and honestly, I don’t know what the right combination for the above rationales is.

What is most relevant is what Putin will and will not be willing to do in Syria in the foreseeable future. What is relevant is what he will do with the metal and flesh he has in Syria.

From what he’s sent to Syria, the following is clear:

First point (i): Russia’s focus is on bringing its air capability to Syria and projecting it right across Syria’s geography.

Second point (ii): Russia does not seek to put “boots on the ground” and undertake offensive ground operations. It will take a defensive posture on the ground (around Bassel al-Assad airport and continue to help Assad with new arms, which it has been providing for years).

I’m particularly interested in the second point (ii) because while Russia’s air assets in Syria are a significant qualitative leap up from what the Assad regime has, Assad’s air-superirioty was never in question – if anything, Russia’s additions constitute a simple “top-up” more than any kind of game-changing shift in the conflict. This conflict isn’t about air-power, nor will “better” air-power make the difference.

I’ll give you some very recent examples. Saudi Arabia, which has an incredible air force, was bombing the Houthis for months but could change nothing on the ground. Why not? Despite its air supremacy, there was no-one on the ground to fight for it. Once it solved that and brought in troops and recruited Yemenis? They have been routing the Houthis everywhere.

Another example? The US, the most sophisticated military power in history, has conducted over 7,000 airstrikes on ISIS. Seen any change? Not much, and the only places there has been change was where the airstrikes have been complemented by forces on the ground.

So, back to that second point. From the tiny number of troops, their geographic location, and Putin saying there will be no offensive ground operations, this Russian deployment does not currently appear to be what Assad needs most: fighters on the ground ready to die for his regime and complement his air-power.

Why isn’t Putin giving Assad what he wants? It’s not an easy decision to deploy the fifty or sixty thousand troops that Assad needs. Hezbollah did its most and Iran gave a fair share, but there’s a soft limit somewhere.

For Russia, the memories of the First Chechen War and, before that, Afghanistan, are still fresh in the Russian collective psyche. Furthermore, unlike the popular annexation of Crimea and east Ukraine adventures, the Russian public does not appear as enthusiastic about this Syria campaign.

In a poll undertaken by the Levada-Center, which is based in Russia, more than two-thirds of Russians oppose the deployment of troops to Syria.

Why wouldn’t they? This has nothing to do with Russia’s territorial integrity (like Chechnya or Daghestan) or the protection of an ethnic Russian minority (like in Ukraine).

Thus, Russians coming back in body-bags from Syria would be painful in the short-term and potentially catastrophic for Putin and his clique over the long-term, especially considering the economic and demographic pressures facing him.

5. The US and West

The United States has a central interest in Syria, which is stability and the formation of a secular state.

While the Assad regime served that interest and cut significant deals with the US over the decades (eg. participating in First Gulf War in exchange for dominating Lebanon), the man atop this regime is now an obstacle. Assad is, to use an expression of John Kerry, a “magnet” for instability and foreign fighters from all across the globe.

That recognition in the Obama administration stops there and doesn’t translate into action due to three factors: first, there’s little appetite in the Administration or US public for a new military campaign in the Middle East; second, the Syrian opposition is dominated by Islamists; thirdly, there’s a chance of replicating the mistake of Iraq, where the state was dissolved without a ‘soft landing’.

barack-obama-un_3048940b

So, what the US seeks now is simple: a clean diplomatic solution where the state remains in place but Assad is ultimately eased out of power. They want to retain the structure but knock off the symbol, much like what happened in Egypt with Hosni Mubarak.

All talk of working with Assad or references to Geneva Protocol, be it out of Washington or a European capital, is basically in pursuit of that model.

 

The “flow” of refugees towards Europe made the Europeans a bit more lenient with their language towards Assad out of seeking a solution, but the substance remains essentially the same: diplomacy to solve this. France has always been hawkish on the Assad regime, UK also to a lesser degree. Germany is irrelevant in the Middle East.

What can break that cycle? A new President in the United States…Obama has 465 days left.

From the Republican side, the two likeliest candidates to win once this Trump-dominated silly season is done, namely Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have pledged to enforce a No-Fly Zone over Syria, and stressed the need to “get rid of both Assad and ISIS”. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has regulalrly expressed her disagreement with Obama on Syria and pushed for “more involvement”; a fortnight ago on “Meet the Press” she said that training rebels to fight ISIS but not Assad is why the strategy is failing.

With Russia now in the mix, expect rhetoric in the presidential primaries to become more hawkish. Also expect the Obama administration to come under increased pressure from the media, Congress and former respected security officials, such as David Petraeus, who testified in Congress around a fortnight ago.

Concluding comments

Muslims need to stop seeing this conflict in ill-informed, dramatic and short-term bursts of interest. This will be a long conflict with many peaks and troughs, so our anger and passions should generally be complemented by patience, consistent action and awareness.

Muslims need to smarten up on the Middle East. It’s incredible, at a time when the region is being baked and re-made from new, just how ill-informed and inconsequential Muslim communities are on these issues. Reading newspaper clippings and remembering sound-bites isn’t the way to make a difference and build a coherent and effective view on the region, let alone sharing false reports, nonsensical and biased “news” from unknown sources.

We need a qualitative shift. We need our own Middle East courses, think tanks and media outlets. We need to reach out to policymakers, editors, academics and the general public, as opposed to talking about these conflicts like it was the latest gossip or likely passively watching a video game from thousands of miles away.

Do what you can. Donations, awareness, lobbying, whatever you can, do it and do it consistently.

Most importantly, Allah, exalted be His Name, will not abandon the oppressed and sincere believers.

Change is never easy, it needs sacrifice and patience. It needs hard-work, commitment and consistency. It needs knowledge and respect.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Five home truths about the Syrian conflict

The Alawais and their place in the Arabic world: the history of secularism and its relationship to Islam

NOVANEWS

 

Secularisation

The author Seyyed Hossein Nasr referred to in the last post traces the forms of secularism, which have influenced Islam through the centuries: this entry is a adaption of his work.

I’ve chosen this theme for 3 reasons:

It’s interesting

I refer to the concept repeatedly in my writings

It relates to the Ba’ath Party, the ruling party of Syria for the past 4 decades and of course to Iraq.

The separation of state and religion

The separation of state and religion is an anomoly in the Islamic world and the advent of Arabism has many critics for instant the mercenary forces, that constitute Islamic State. Throughout the 20th  century the incorporation of secular methods of governance was deemed necessary and practical as Arabic and Turkish nationalism marked the end of the Ottoman era. This meant security for millions but also enforced geographical and ideological boundaries, which are unacceptable to many Muslims.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr explains how there is no separate term for secularisation in Islam as religion is the ”divine guide” through which ordinary people find God. All Muslims have the potential to achieve a divine state thus secularisation is contradictory as it relies upon earthly concepts. Where Muslims adhere to the word of God, the Prophet Mohammed, the Hadiths and the Imams, secularist ideas are purely man made.

Philosophy, the Kalifa and colonisation

From the very beginning Islam was influenced by pagan practices and tribal and family feuds but as these influences were subdued other forms of secularisation began to permeate. Mr. Nasr refers to the Umayyad  period when the divine principles took a back seat to power politics and ”human ambition”. The Umayyad dynasty was formed after the Battle of the Siffin where Ali ibn Abi Talib was defeated by Muawiyah 1st, for more about his rule 2015/07/29/alawais-and-their-place-in-the-islamic-world-an-intro-and-brief-recap-the-next-stages-of-the-civil-war-peace-arrives-and-new-ideas-emerge/

The author further describes how Islam encountered the Persian and Byzantine customs and procedures and even though these former empires absorbed the religion, fields such as taxation impacted on Islamic law and produced a heterogenity, whereby secularisation flourished.

He discusses the weakening of the Khalifa, (the Arabic word for one who replaces a person who dies but in Islamic terms is the successor to Prophet Mohammed’s position as the administrative, political and military leader). I didn’t realise fully the significance of this particular form of secularisation and how it relates to recent events in Syria i.e. the declaration of a Khalifa by the mercenary group I.S. in Raqqa.

This impacted during the Abbasid era with the subsequent emergence of the Turkish Seljuk empire and the authority of the Sultan alongside sacred law and the Khalif. Though the authority of the Sultan was secular, or even pagan being associated with the Sassanid period and in opposition to the principle of divine Islam, its authority was accepted by many scholars as necessary to preserve the Muslim religion in certain regions.

Among all this there had emerged the Amirs or princes who were interspersed through the regions, which constituted the Khalifas.

Maths and the social sciences

With regard the mathematical and social sciences, in Islam the former sat comfortably with the Greek and Hindu forms as new branches of the science were created and older mathematical theories developed. The author does state, that mathematics is not considered as secular thanks to the esoteric qualities promoted by Pythagorus. Islam was not touched by many philosophical tenets but absorbed a version of the rationalist principles derived from the Aristotle’s peripatetic school.

Mr Nasr explains how intellectual pursuits enable Muslims to achieve a state of divinity and how this coupled with the fact it was to be the last religion of mankind, meant all previous religious knowledge had to be understood and those elements, which were considered acceptable assimulated into the Islamic faith. Both Plato and Aristotle had maintained, that all knowledge be given careful attention prior to being disgarded; none were to be ignored.

Whole philosophical tracts were translated to Arabic and debates were held between the various scholars often in front of the Khalifs and the Shia Imams. The Alexandrian school of alchemy and Corpus Hermeticum was derived from the work of the mythical Hermes Trismegistus and compiled into a single work in the Byzantium period, which marked the synthesis of the Greek and Egyptian traditions. Despite their pagan roots Islam embraced these ideas as it identified Hermes with the pre-flood descendent of Noah; the prophet Idris.

This is an incredibly interesting and involved part of Islamic history as and may well have caused a further rift between the Sunni and Shia strands of the faith as well as adding to the heterogenity of the religion as a whole. Hermes introduced the seven esoteric principles, which are said to be immutable laws of nature and thus cannot be reversed. Though adherence to the seven principles requires a degree of meditation to enhance growth and development, they are to an extent fairly common sensical and even scientific.

Western secularisation

The author describes the ”devastating forms” of secularism, which hit Islam in the 13th/19th century and how they were combatitive and  derived from western value systems. Being political and economic in character they affected all the institutions  including the legal system. The Tanzimat introduced by the Ottomans introduced European codes to supplement Quranic legislation, /2014/05/26/the-history-of-syria-the-ottoman-empire-restructures-the-impact-on-their-colonies-mercenary-speke/.

Mr. Nasr admits, that Islamic religion was weakened internally by not only by western secularism but by Muslim philosophers, who tended to deny or even ”belittle” its more spiritual aspects. To this there was a backlash and a ”puritanical rationalism” emerged e.g. in the of form of the neo Wahhabiz-Salafiyyah movement, which inspire groups like Islamic State.

Next time the al kalam, broadly translated as theology

 

Orthodoxy v heterodoxy

As expressed in earlier posts the succession issue is just the tip of the iceburg in relation to the polarities between Sunni and Shia Islam. The last entry in this series referred to orthodoxy and esotericism, this entry seeks to explore the significance of these concepts further, in order to cast light on a rift, which refuses to heal.

The post draws on the theories of Luis Alberto Vittor and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. In his work www.al-islam.org/shiite-islam-orthodoxy-or-heterodoxy-luis-alberto-vittor, Mr. Vittor critiques Orientalist methodology, which in his view, interprets the eastern way of life, religion and culture in relation to western value systems, he claims also to give Shia Islam a perspective, that is not ”over-shadowed” by its Sunni counterpart.

Mr. Vittor supports the view, that in spite of its esoteric qualities Shia orthodoxy exists simply because, as is true of other strands of the religion, there is no formal institution to determine what constitutes orthodoxy; adherence to Islam is dependent on Quranic teachings rather than to religious practices. Further he argues, that all it requires to be an orthodox Muslim is to adhere to the 5 pillars of Islam.

The five pillars in brief (there will be a fuller account soon)

Briefly these are the tawhīd, a belief in divine unity, the nubuwwah, a belief in prophecy and the mī’ād, a belief in resurrection. It is the last two, wilāyah, guardianship and ‘adl, divine justice, which are a source of dissent between the Sunni and Shia strands of Islam as both concepts are associated with the role of the Imamate.

Esotericism

Mr Vittor claims, that the divisions which occur between Sunni and Shia Muslims inevitably centre on the question of heterodoxy or more precisely esotericism. He cites Nahj al-balāghah (The Path of Eloquence), a collection of sermons, epistles, and aphorisms compiled by Sharīf al-Razī (406/1015) and’written by ibn Abī Tālib, the first Imam, which refer to a spiritual freedom given by God.

The passages describe how, regardless of the different schools of religious thought, which pertain to the Islamic faith, it was the religion God had chosen for his own and thus was unbreakable. In the light of the various inter-factional tensions both present and past this has proven to be a pipe dream and shows people are driven often by political dogma and economic factors rather than their faith.

Shia heterodoxy and Sufism

Though the entry has explored in the main, the heterodoxy of Shia Islam, which appears to exist in contrast to the Sunni strand of Islam, it is worth noting, that Sufism is equally important to the philosophical development of the Islamic religion. Sufism or the tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism), though some claim it is neither Shia or Sunni, is widely associated with the Sunnism. The tasawwuf is considered heretical by those Sunni Muslims; who believe an earthly path is the only way to achieve enlightenment; or reject certain Islamic philosophies.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his book ‘Islamic Life and Thought’, describes how, during the Abbasid era, the philosophies of Aristotle and other ancient philosophers were translated into Arabic by the Islamic scholar, Hunayn ibn-Ishaq, an Assyrian and convert from the Nestorian faith. This is a source of pride for all Muslims but prior to the Abbasid period the author describes how the 6th Shia Imam, Ja’far al-Sadiq showed an interest in pre-Islamic studies, such as alchemy, which sits less comfortably for those who are more earth centred.

Nevertheless it is likely, that scholars had an interest in all sorts of possibilities, like today when the wetern world is so science orientated, governments continue to show an interest in Astrology and the paranormal. People are simply curious and unwilling to dismiss ideas out of hand.

Next time language and theology.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on The Alawais and their place in the Arabic world: the history of secularism and its relationship to Islam

Barakat: Progressive forces’ loss in Venezuela is a setback for all, will not undermine popular solidarity

NOVANEWS

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Responding to the electoral loss for the progressive forces in Venezuela’s December 6 elections, Comrade Khaled Barakat said that “this is a sad day in the life of the popular classes and indigenous people, not only in Venezuela but across the continent of Latin America, who have reaped the fruits of the Bolivarian revolution in health services, housing, education, jobs, social welfare, programs for youth and women, and more.”

“This loss may lead to negative effects on the formal and official solidarity of the Venezuelan state with the Palestinian cause, but we know that there will be no such setback on the popular and grass-roots level,” said Barakat. “The popular and mutual solidarity between the Venezuelan and Palestinian people will remain strong and steadfast. We know that this election is not the end of the Bolivarian revolution, but a difficult period, and that the forces of progress and revolution will return to the forefront and to victory.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, VenezuelaComments Off on Barakat: Progressive forces’ loss in Venezuela is a setback for all, will not undermine popular solidarity

Progressive Student Labor Front launches new website for Palestinian youth organizing

NOVANEWS

pslf-newsite

The Progressive Student Labor Front is marking the 48th anniversary of the founding of the PFLP as well as the anniversary of the intifada with the re-launch of its new website, at www.pslf.ps.

The site includes coverage of the PSLF’s student work as well as other activities by youth supporters of the Popular Front, and provides a platform for publishing articles and writings by young revolutionary Palestinians.

Comrade Ahmad Tanani, general secretary of the PSLF, said that the launch of the site comes in the context of support for the growing intifada, which is based on the activity of young people. The site is a platform to cover the events and activities of Palestinian youth. He saluted all of the comrades of the Front, especially the martyrs and prisoners, saying that young people are committed to carrying forward the struggle.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Progressive Student Labor Front launches new website for Palestinian youth organizing

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