Archive | January 13th, 2016

Philippine court paves way for US to extend military presence

A China Southern Airlines jetliner landed at the newly constructed airfield on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Jan. 6, fueling new security concerns in the nearby Philippines.

A China Southern Airlines jetliner landed at the newly constructed airfield on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Jan. 6, fueling new security concerns in the nearby Philippines.

By Javier C. Hernández and Floyd Whaley NEW YORK TIMES  

BEIJING — The United States won a significant victory Tuesday in its efforts to counter China’s rising influence in the South China Sea, as the highest court in the Philippines cleared the way for US troops to return to the country on a regular basis.

The Philippine Supreme Court, in a 10-4 decision, approved an agreement that would allow the US military to station troops and weapons at crucial bases in the Philippines, more than two decades after lawmakers in Manila voted to expel US troops in a show of anti-colonialism. The Philippines was a US territory from 1898 to 1946.

The decision came as the foreign and defense chiefs of the Philippines were in Washington preparing to meet with their US counterparts on Tuesday to discuss dealing with Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea. It highlighted the shifting alliances in the region as China moves aggressively to build military facilities on top of submerged reefs in the disputed waters.The Obama administration has sought to deter China’s efforts by increasing sea patrols in the region and providing more military aid to allies like the Philippines. But it has had little effect, and China has moved swiftly to build airstrips, military buildings, and port facilities on top of artificial islands in the sea.The 10-year agreement with the Philippines, reached in 2014, was seen as a critical way of enhancing US power in the region, giving the Americans a stronghold less than 500 miles from the islands built by the Chinese.

But for nearly two years, it languished, falling victim to legal challenges and a sluggish judicial system, dealing a setback to President Obama’s efforts to shift military resources to Asia.

On Tuesday, leaders in the Philippines praised the Supreme Court decision. Sonny Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno S. Aquino III, said the agreement would bring a “generational leap” for the defense capabilities of the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in Asia.

Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, the chairman of the national defense and security committee, said a stronger US presence would allow the Philippines to protect itself from China’s advances.“It will have some psychological effect on the Chinese, knowing that the Philippines won’t be alone in this part of the world anymore,” he said.The US Embassy in Manila called the deal “a mutually beneficial agreement that will enhance our ability to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and help build capacity for the armed forces of the Philippines.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not comment on the court’s decision. In the past, it has accused the United States of unnecessarily militarizing the region and threatening peace.

Zhu Feng, the executive director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, said the agreement would raise the risk of a military confrontation.

“The South China Sea will be more crowded, and the risk for a military conflict will continue to rise,” he said.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, including several islands off the coast of the Philippines, raising fears that it will accelerate its efforts to reclaim territory as it seeks to become the dominant power in the Pacific.

In recent weeks, several countries have escalated criticism of China’s activities on the Spratly Islands, about 500 miles off the coast of mainland China.

Vietnam angrily denounced Chinese officials this month for conducting test landings of civilian aircraft on islands built by the Chinese. Singapore signed a defense agreement with the United States last month that allowed the Americans to deploy a spy plane to Singapore, a move seen as a direct challenge to China’s activities.

Although the United States has said that the purpose of the defense agreement with the Philippines is not to contain China, the Philippine government has cited a need to bolster its weak military in light of its growing conflicts with Beijing.

China claims much of what the Philippines considers its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, but the largest ship that the Philippine navy has to defend the area is a second-hand US Coast Guard cutter. The Philippines has just two functioning fighter jets.

The Philippine military has identified several possible locations facing China where it would like new US facilities built and operated.

Posted in Far EastComments Off on Philippine court paves way for US to extend military presence

Junior doctors’ strike in England disrupts care for thousands

By Stephen Castle
Junior doctors and their supporters protested outside a hospital Tuesday during the 24-hour work stoppage.

Junior doctors and their supporters protested outside a hospital Tuesday during the 24-hour work stoppage.

LONDON — Hospital doctors in England staged their first strike in four decades Tuesday, disrupting treatment for thousands of patients in the National Health Service and escalating political tensions over a publicly funded health care system so revered that it was once likened to a national religion.

Operations were postponed and appointments canceled in a bitter dispute over pay and working hours between employers and junior doctors, a term that covers medical professionals with as much as a decade of experience.

With the junior doctors offering only emergency care, about 3,500 operations had been affected by Tuesday afternoon, including routine procedures for knee and hip replacements — prompting a warning from Prime Minister David Cameron that the labor action would create “real difficulties for patients, and potentially worse.”Yet the dispute over the health system carries risks for the government. The National Health Service, which is funded by taxes and payroll deductions but has faced years of financial strain, delivers most treatment without charge. Despite regular funding crises, there has been no similar strike since 1975.

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The Palestinians must put their political act together


The Palestinians must put their political act together if their cause is to be kept alive

Palestinian children

By Alan Hart

For several years I have been wondering, sometimes on public platforms and in writing, if Palestine is a lost cause. I have now come to the conclusion that, as things are, it is and will remain so unless the Palestinians, the occupied and oppressed and the diaspora, put their political act together in order to give their cause new life with some real hope of justice eventually.

In my view the most telling indicator of the political bankruptcy and irrelevance of the leadership provided by the Palestinian Authority (PA) was the recent statement by its president, Mahmoud Abbas, that it’s up to the international community to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Unpleasant realities

The reality Abbas chooses to ignore is that as things are there is absolutely no reason to believe that the American-led Western powers (or any others) will ever use the leverage they have to try to cause Israel to end its defiance of international law and denial of justice for the Palestinians.

Western (and other) governments and their diplomats continue to pay lip-service to the two-state solution but they know it’s dead, killed by Israel’s on-going colonisation of the occupied West Bank which, as I have previously noted, is a process best described as ethnic cleansing slowly and by stealth. They also know that implementing a two-state solution would provoke a Jewish civil war and – as Shimon Peres said to me in 1980 – no Israeli leadership is ever going to do that.

There is also no reason to believe that the regimes of a deeply divided, corrupt, authoritarian and repressive Arab order will ever use the leverage they have to press the US and other Western powers to do whatever is necessary to oblige Israel to be serious about peace on terms the Palestinians could accept.

A truth of history is that when Israel closed the Palestine file with its victory on the battlefield in 1948, the Arab regimes, behind closed doors, shared the same unspeakable hope as Zionism and all the major powers – that the file would remain closed. In other words, the Arab regimes hoped the Palestinians would accept their lot as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of political expediency. If there had been no Yasser Arafat to oversee the relighting of the fire of Palestinian resistance to Zionism’s fait accompli, the file might well have remained closed for ever.


In my analysis, the realities summarised above invite only one conclusion. It is only the Palestinians who can change the dynamics of the conflict in a way that could generate real pressure for action by the governments of the international community.

What action? Putting Israel on notice that if it doesn’t end its defiance of international law and denial of justice for the Palestinians, it will be isolated and sanctioned. (Yes, I know that governments won’t go down this road unless they are pushed by public opinion, but changing the dynamics of the conflict could provide the understanding necessary to motivate more and more citizens to do the pushing.)

Changing the dynamics requires for starters the dissolution of the PA and handing back to Israel complete responsibility and full accountability for occupation.

This would impose significant security, financial and other burdens on Israel. Its response would undoubtedly be more and more brutal repression of all kinds, but this could (I think would) benefit the Palestinians because the true face of Zionism would be exposed, fully naked, like never before for all the world to see. And that in turn could lead to mounting public pressure on the American-led Western powers, perhaps at some point enough pressure to cause them to say to Israel ”Enough is enough” and put it on notice that it will be isolated and have sanctions imposed on it if it does not end its defiance of international law and denial of justice for the Palestinians.

The dissolution of the PA would open the door to rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian national movement on the basis of unity which, by definition, would mean an end to factionalism and political tribalism. At top level, and to enable the Palestinians to determine policy and speak to power with one credible voice, this in my view would require bringing the Palestine National Council (PNC) back to life refreshed and reinvigorated by elections to it in every country where Palestinians live.

Even if there are enough Palestinians in the diaspora who would be prepared to become engaged to make it happen, elections to refresh and reinvigorate the PNC would take time. So after the dissolution of the PA and handing back to Israel complete responsibility and full accountability for occupation, what would be the most effective resistance strategy for the occupied and oppressed Palestinians to adopt?

Peaceful resistance

Their incredible almost superhuman steadfastness in staying put is proof that Zionism’s policy of making life hell for them in the hope that they will leave to make new lives elsewhere has failed to date and is unlikely ever to succeed. But that’s not enough. The steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians needs to be reinforced by peaceful, absolutely non-violent, demonstrations,  preferably on a daily basis, across the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, calling for peace with security and equal political, civil and human rights of every kind for all. This would be in effect a campaign for one state for all.

Demonstrations of resistance would have to be peaceful, absolutely non-violent, because escalating Palestinian violence would play into the hands of those Israeli Jews, leaders and others, who would welcome a pretext for a final round of ethnic cleansing.

In theory, equal political, civil and human rights for all in one state would lead in time to the de-Zionization of Palestine; but it’s not unreasonable to assume that Israel’s leaders will never allow that to happen,

In that light, and despite what I have written above, the question that has to be asked is this.

Even if the Palestinians do put their political act together in the way I have suggested, is there any reason to entertain real hope that there can be a future in which they enjoy an acceptable amount of justice?

Decision time for Israeli Jews

In my view, that’s a question only the Jews of Israel can answer.

If the Palestinians remain steadfast and do put their political act together to keep their cause alive, they will bring about the day when the Jews of Israel will have to address the question of what kind of future they want.

…there is not and never has been a Palestine problem. There is only a Jewish problem. And only the Jews can solve it. Or not.

Do they want to live in an obnoxious, apartheid state which has to resort to ever more brutal measures to maintain its domination of the Palestinians, with the very real danger that the ever more brutal measures will transform the rising global tide of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism, setting the stage at some point for another holocaust  (that is, another great turning against Jews everywhere); or, do they want peace and security in one state with equal political, civil and human rights for all – even though that that would mean the end of Zionism’s colonial-like enterprise?

If by putting their political act together in the way I have suggested the Palestinians can cause the Jews of Israel to make that choice, there will be some hope (perhaps not a lot but some) for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

I once said, and I think it bears repeating, that there is not and never has been a Palestine problem. There is only a Jewish problem. And only the Jews can solve it. Or not.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on The Palestinians must put their political act together

Welcome to Jewish Nazi version of apartheid


Welcome to I$raHell version of apartheid, as passengers evict Palestinians from plane

Jewish passengers on airliner

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

A small scene from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfolded last week on a Greek airport runway.

Moments before an Aegean Airlines flight was due to take off, three Israeli passengers took security into their own hands and demanded that two fellow passengers, from Israel’s Palestinian minority, be removed from the plane. By the end of a 90-minute stand-off, dozens more Israeli Jews had joined the protest, refusing to take their seats.

Like a parable illustrating Europe’s bottomless indulgence of Israel, Aegean staff caved in to the pressure and persuaded the two Palestinian men to disembark.

Intrinsic apartheid

The lack of outcry from Israeli officials should be no surprise. Shortly before the Athens incident, Israel banned a Hebrew novel, Borderlife, from the schools curriculum because it features a romance between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian.

The Education Ministry said it feared the book would undermine Jewish pupils’ “national-ethnic identity” and encourage “miscegenation”.

As an Israeli columnist observed: “Discouraging ‘assimilation’ is an inseparable part of the Jewish state”. Strict separation operates in the key areas of life, from residence to schooling. As a result, marriages between Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population, are rare indeed.

It was therefore difficult not to see the paradox in Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments following a shooting by Nashat Melhem that killed three Israelis in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day.

Attacks of this kind by a Palestinian citizen on Israeli Jews are uncommon and it elicited instant condemnation from the Palestinian leadership. Nonetheless, Netanyahu seized the chance to label as “criminals” the country’s 1.6 million Palestinians.

In a sequel to his notorious election eve statement last year, when he warned that Palestinian voters threatened the result by “coming to the polls in droves”, Netanyahu pledged extra police funds to crack down on the “lawless” minority.

“I will not accept two states within Israel. Whoever wants to be Israeli must be Israeli all the way,” he said.

But in reality there have always been two classes of Israeli, by design.

The search for Melhem ended on Friday with police shooting him dead. In the meantime, his immediate family had been either arrested as accomplices or interrogated at length.

Presumably in an effort to pressure Melhem, the police told his mother they would demolish the family home unless he turned himself in – only Palestinians, not Jews, face house demolitions.

Earlier, when police suspected Melhem was hiding in Tel Aviv, the lodgings of dozens of Palestinian students were raided by officers with weapons drawn, though no search warrants.

At the weekend, Netanyahu conditioned a promised rise in the paltry budgets received by the Palestinian minority on an end to the “lawlessness” in their communities, as though the lack of effective policing of those communities was the responsibility of Palestinian citizens, not the government.

Unequal before the law

The week-long hysteria contrasted with the handling of another terrible crime, this one committed by Israeli Jews.

In late July, a gang of extremist settlers torched a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma. Three members of the Dawabsheh family, including an 18-month-old baby, burnt to death.

For weeks, in a familiar pattern following settler violence, the investigation made no progress. Then in September, defence minister Moshe Yaalon conceded that the culprits had been identified but the police would make no arrests to avoid exposing their informers.

Only after an international outcry, and Arab legislators threatened to petition the Supreme Court, did the wheels of law enforcement start to grind.

The attorney-general approved the first-ever use of torture – a staple interrogation technique for Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories – on the Jewish suspects.

Prominent Israeli commentators and government ministers have agonised ever since about the abuses faced by these Jewish detainees.

Bezalel Smotrich, an MP, publicly rejected treating the Dawabshehs’ killers as terrorists. Asked in parliament to repudiate Smotrich’s remarks, Netanyahu stepped down from the podium in silence.

No one, of course, has suggested arresting the Jewish suspects’ parents – in one case a settlement rabbi – or demolishing their homes. Settlement seminaries have not been raided, or their students questioned at gun point.

Budgets for the settlements have been rising, with settlers receiving far more government money than Israelis inside Israel’s recognised borders. Their long record of violence and “lawlessness” has made no difference to their funding.

Legal experts now warn that the courts will likely free the main suspects in the Duma killings because their confessions were forced.

Meanwhile, the settler communities from which the men came are unrepentant. A recent wedding video showed guests celebrating the Dawabshehs’ deaths, including a reveller who repeatedly stabbed a photo of the toddler.

Crime as a weapon

Although both settlers and Palestinian citizens face inadequate policing, they do so for very different reasons.

Depriving Palestinian citizens of law enforcement – except when repressing dissent – has left their communities weak and oppressed by crime and guns. For years Netanyahu has ignored pleas from Palestinian leaders for increased gun control – until now, when one of those weapons targeted Jews.

Settlers have also been policed lightly, so long as their violence was directed at Palestinians, whether in the occupied territories or Israel. More than a decade of settler violence – labelled “price-tag” attacks – has gone largely uninvestigated.

The truth is that most Israeli Jews have long supported two Israels: one for them and another for the Palestinian minority, with further, even more deprived ghettos for Palestinians under occupation.

The inhabitants of one Israel remain hostile towards, and abusive of, those in the other, who refuse to accept Jewish privilege as the natural order – just like the mob that insisted that their fellow citizens had no right to share a plane.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Welcome to Jewish Nazi version of apartheid

Famine and government neglect in Ethiopia

Ethiopian famine 2015

By Graham Peebles

A shadow of fear and panic is creeping through villages in north-eastern, central and southern Ethiopia, where once again famine stalks the land. The seasonal rains that usually fall between June and September did not arrive, and now, with the dry season here, the already severe situation can only deteriorate.

According to the United Nations, Ethiopia “is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years”. In some areas the poorest and most vulnerable infants are already dying at a rate of two per day.

Millions in need of food aid

Around “350,000 children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition”, the UN children’s agency UNICEF says, and up to 8.2 million people (out of a population of 95 million) urgently require relief assistance. This number is expected to rise to a staggering 15 million by early 2016.

A villager near Wallo in the north of the country told the BBC, that “although this drought has just started, it’s going to get worse… It’s already really severe. Some people have died of hunger, others are sick in their beds – right now it’s just like 1984”, when almost half a million people starved to death.

The drought is caused by the El Nino weather system, and has resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in crop yields. The famine, though, is brought about by various factors, some of which are the result of poor governance and state neglect.

El Nino is characterised by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causing “extremes such as scorching weather in some regions of the globe and heavy rains and flooding in others”, Reuters news agency reports. Scientists say it has been with us for millennia, but is intensifying and becoming more frequent due to global climate change; last year’s phenomenon is said to have been one of the worst on record.

Government duplicity and deceit

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government has “earmarked USD 192 (GBP 127) million for emergency food and other assistance, diverting money from projects such as road construction”, and IRIN reports that USD 163 million has been pledged by the “international community”. While this is to be welcomed, it’s nowhere near enough – according to aid agencies USD 600 million is needed.

The amount set aside by the EPRDF is inadequate and there is growing anger at the way food aid is being distributed, with some people inside the country and within the diaspora making allegations of state corruption. Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) spoke to a farmer from Raya Qobo in Afar who claims that “Government officials tell us that aid is coming soon; however, no aid has so far been delivered and we are pondering to migrate to towns.” The ruling regime “has gone to the extent of kidnapping people who enquire about the food aid even at this critical time”, the farmer added.

Consumed with vain ideals of regional status, economic development… and a distorted national image, the ruling party… lacks the political will, compassion and honesty to deal with the situation openly.

Partisan food distribution is consistent with the manner in which all humanitarian support, as well as employment opportunities, homes, medicine and university places are given. Those who openly oppose the EPRDF receive little or nothing – smallholder farmers denied fertiliser, families refused food, students forbidden university places, men and women not allowed to work.

Not only are people on the verge of starvation, but farmers whose crops have failed due to the lack of rainfall are being hounded by government thugs for loan repayments (taken to buy fertiliser that in all likelihood should have been given as aid). ESAT reports that “local government officials jail farmers who could not pay their loans”.

Consumed with vain ideals of regional status, economic development (despite some growth, the country ranks as the third poorest in the world) and a distorted national image, the ruling party – a brutal dictatorship, despite democratic pretensions – lacks the political will, compassion and honesty to deal with the situation openly. It has stopped people in Addis Ababa and elsewhere collecting funds for famine victims, and, consistent with past denials, Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonen, commenting on a BBC programme discussing the crisis, is reported to have told a local journalist that “there is no such thing as famine in Ethiopia these days”. The BBC news coverage was also condemned by the Ethiopian embassy in London, which contradicted the UN’s information that children are dying from malnutrition in drought affected areas, and said the BBC report was “sensational”.

Irrespective of the era or the rulers, duplicity is, it seems, a characteristic of the state, as are regime apathy, neglect and corruption.

The government’s propaganda is most commonly churned out by the communications minister, Getachew Reda, who, IRIN relates, has stated that “there is no one that we know of that has lost their life as a result of the drought-induced crisis”. Well, tell that to Bertukan Ali, whose five-year-old son died “when the family ran out of food because the rains did not come,” the BBC reports.

Such dishonesty is reminiscent of 2012, when Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died and the government kept it hidden for months; or when thousands were dying of starvation in 1973 but Emperor Halie Selassie denied there was famine in the country, or in 1984 when the military ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam, attempted to conceal the starving millions from the world.

Irrespective of the era or the rulers, duplicity is, it seems, a characteristic of the state, as are regime apathy, neglect and corruption.

The EPRDF will no doubt continue to try to control and manipulate the media coverage of the crisis – local, national and international – allowing only restricted access to affected areas of the country, and silencing aid organisations in an attempt to lessen the political impact of what they see as negative images of the country. Stark images of parched land, dried up wells and dead cattle, malnourished children crying with hunger and desperate, anxious men and women waiting for food aid, praying for help and support.

A history of state-induced famine

Ethiopia has been plagued by famine going back to the 16th century. In recent times it struck the country in 1973 (40,000 starved in the north-east and around 55,000 died in the Ogaden region), and, most notoriously, between 1983 and 1985, when areas of northern Ethiopia and Eritrea where affected in what is regarded as the worst famine to hit the country in a century.

Although the UN estimates that one million people died in the “Great Famine” of 1983-85, scholar Alex De Waal states that the number of fatalities was between 400,000-500,000.  Millions of others were made destitute, their lives shattered. While climatic conditions resulting in drought are widely blamed, many believe the famine was caused, in large part, by government policies.

In his highly detailed report for Africa Watch, Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia, De Waal makes clear that “one consequence of the government’s military policies, particularly during the early 1980s, was famine”. Widespread drought occurred “months after the famine was already under way”, and “information on food production and prices gives an account which contradicts important elements of the drought hypothesis”.

The key factors explaining the famine (many of which are similarly taking place today, such as selling off land to international corporations for industrial farming), De Waal explains, were “the counter-insurgency strategy adopted by the government [much like the state violence currently taking place in Amhara, Oromia, Gambella and the Ogaden], and restrictions and burdens imposed on the population of non-insurgent areas in the name of social transformation”. Add to these the government’s “repeated military offensives, which destroyed the crops in surplus producing areas, and with them much rural employment”.

The Mengistu government bombed market places, which stopped “rural trade and exchange”, hindering the redistribution of surplus foods. Other government-made causes of the famine where the “punitively high delivery quotas of staple grains to the Agricultural Marketing Corporation and heavy taxation”, plus the fact that the majority of food relief was channelled though the “government side”, this despite them only having access to a minority of the “famine stricken population” in the north.

De Waal estimates that over half of the 400,000 who died in the famine can be attributed to “human rights abuses causing the famine to come earlier and strike harder, and extend further than would otherwise have been the case.” Human rights abuses are just as acute, if not more so, under the present regime and are perhaps even more widespread.

Planning for famine

Although the Ethiopian government has made some provision to mitigate the impact of poor harvests, for example, establishing a sort of social security net so poorer farmers can access funds for public works such as digging water holes, many have been critical of the EPRDF’s response, and its inability to foresee and plan for the current crisis.

The answer to famine is not increased levels of food aid, but strategic planning to enable communities to survive the impact of extreme weather, made more acute by climate change.

Given the country’s exposure to drought, as well as the intensifying, ongoing threat caused by climate change and El Nino weather patterns, long-term plans need to be put in place to mitigate the effects.

The answer to famine is not increased levels of food aid, but strategic planning to enable communities to survive the impact of extreme weather, made more acute by climate change. As Thabani Maphosa, World Vision’s vice-president of food assistance programmes,states, “food assistance interventions must be designed to empower poor people to build productive assets such as water harvesting tanks, dams and irrigation projects”, as well as strengthening and consolidating smallholder-farming – not allowing foreign companies to build industrial-sized farms and grow crops for export only (which is going on apace in Ethiopia) – in order to help them become self-sufficient in the long term.

The first duty of any government is the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. To this end, much more should and could have been done to safeguard the people of Ethiopia against the risk of low yields and resulting food poverty. But the priorities of the ruling regime are not (and they consistently prove this), the security, freedom and happiness of the population, but control – often violent – holding onto power and the accumulation of personal wealth.

Donor countries also have a long-term responsibility to the people they purport to support. The governments of Britain, the USA and the European Union states, who collectively give over half of Ethiopia’s annual federal budget in various aid packages, must ensure that the Ethiopian government, whoever it may be, puts in place visionary plans to mitigate the impact of any future drought, which, with climate change a fact for us all, will undoubtedly take place.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Famine and government neglect in Ethiopia

“Ethical” Co-op Bank leaves Palestinian cause in the lurch

Boycott Co-op Bank

By Stuart Littlewood

Several organisations in the UK that support Palestinians in their struggle for freedom are reported to have had their accounts frozen or closed by the Co-op Bank or been threatened with the chop.

The bank until recently was part of the well-regarded Co-operative movement and famed for its business ethics. After running into financial difficulties it was rescued in 2013-14 by, among others, US hedge fund outfit Perry Capital, which now has a seat on the board. According to Wikipedia, billionaire Richard C. Perry has served as a director of The Israel Project.

Institutional bullying and racism?

Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) is one of the bank’s victims. The organisation describes itself as “a UK based non-profit making NGO concerned with defending the human rights of Palestinians and protecting the sacred Al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem”. It says the bank claims to have conducted “extensive research” into the work the FOA do but hasn’t invited them to supply information direct. “In spite of this ‘research’ they also describe us as a charity which FOA is certainly not,” says the NGO’s chairman, Ismail Patel. “We have had a very good relationship with the bank for 10 years. We do not transfer funds abroad and we have never been overdrawn.”

Although the FOA website states that the Co-op Bank has closed the group’s account, the FOA chairman tells me it will still operate until 23 February. Has he found a replacement bank? No, they have been turned down by all those approached, even the Islamic banks. So has he reported what the FOA believes to be institutional bullying and racism to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Ombudsman? Yes, but with no result, possibly due to the length of time it takes for complaints to be dealt with (the reason was not clear in our conversation over a poor telephone line).

All this is scarcely believable. If true, it is deeply worrying. And why is the Muslim cavalry not riding to the rescue?

Another organisation to have fallen foul of the Co-op Bank is the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). Its main account, and the accounts of many of its local branches, have been closed down with no reason given other than citing “the bank’s risk appetite”. However, after receiving a legal letter from PSC the bank did say that “for customers who operate in, or send money to, high risk locations throughout the world, advanced due diligence checks are required by all banks to ensure the funds do not inadvertently fund alleged or proscribed activities”.

PSC says all its campaign work is based in the UK: “We do not finance or run projects in the West Bank, Gaza or other parts of the world.” It insists there is no reason for the PSC to have failed the bank’s due diligence test and although the Co-op promised a substantive response it hasn’t produced one. So, the PSC remains none the wiser. In the meantime, it has opened facilities with the Unity Trust Bank, which specialises in unions, charities, social enterprises and the like, and is discussing next steps against the Co-op Bank with its legal team.

The Israel Project

So is this aggravation just a bit of political mischief-making or something more serious? Let us go back to The Israel Project, to which the Co-op Bank now has links, it seems, through Perry Capital. The Israel Project (TIP) is a US media advocacy group that claims to be “devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace”. It provides journalists, leaders and opinion-formers with “accurate information about Israel”.

[The Israel Project] is a masterpiece in distortion intended to undermine with clever words the inalienable rights pledged by the UN and the world’s civilised nations to all peoples everywhere, including the Palestinians…

It also describes itself as a “non-partisan” one-stop information source on Israel and the Middle East. So non-partisan is TIP that in 2009 it produced a training manual titled Global Language Dictionary to help the worldwide Zionist movement win the propaganda war. The manual teaches Israel’s hasbara(propaganda) recruits how to justify the illegal occupation of the Holy Land, the slaughter, the ethnic cleansing, the land-grabs, the cruelty and the blatant disregard for international law and UN resolutions – and, in particular, how to demonise Hamas and Iran – and how to make it all smell sweeter with a liberal squirt of persuasive language. It is designed to hoodwink gullible Americans and Europeans into believing that we actually share values with the racist regime in Tel Aviv and that its behaviour deserves our support.

The TIP manual runs to 116 pages and recycles many of the discredited techniques used by the advertising industry before standards of honesty, decency and truthfulness were brought into protect the public. It is a masterpiece in distortion intended to undermine with clever words the inalienable rights pledged by the UN and the world’s civilised nations to all peoples everywhere, including the Palestinians – rights that still have to be fought for by organisations such as Friends of Al-Aqsa and the PSC.

Ditch the Co-op Bank and expose its Zionist links

This weekend activists have been called on by the FOA and the Scottish PSC (not to be confused with the PSC south of the border) to demonstrate in several cities urging the Co-op Bank to “reverse their decision to close our account”. But why? Knowing the new situation, they’d surely wish to drop the Co-op Bank like a hot potato, assuming they can move their money to an alternative like Unity Trust.

It appears to me that a certain major shareholder at the rejigged Co-op Bank, believing that some of its customers would soon sniff out the Zionist connection and cause embarrassment saying their noisy goodbyes, decided to beat them to the punch, seizing upon the war on terror as a feeble excuse and pleading a delicate “risk appetite”.

So, are those brave demonstrators standing around in the cold and wet chanting the right message?

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BDS in the crosshairs of US presidential hopefuls

BDS in US crosshairs

By Lawrence Davidson

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Most readers will know that the United States has served as the patron of Israel for decades. Why has it done so? The commonly given reasons are suspect. It is not because the two countries have overlapping interests. The US seeks stability in the Middle East (mostly by supporting dictators) and Israel is constantly making things unstable (mostly by practising ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, illegally colonising conquered lands and launching massive assaults against its neighbours). Nor, as is often claimed, is the alliance based on “shared Western values”. The US long ago outlawed racial, ethnic and religious discrimination in the public sphere. In Israel, religious-based discrimination is the law. The Zionist state’s values in this regard are the opposite of those of the United States.

So why is it that a project that seeks to pressure Israel to be more cognisant in foreign affairs of regional stability, and more democratic and egalitarian in domestic affairs, is now under fire by almost every presidential candidate standing for the 2016 election?

That project in dispute is BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, promoted by civil society throughout the Western world. BDS is directed at Israel due to its illegal colonisation of the occupied territories and its general apartheid-style discrimination against non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular.

The candidates and BDS

With but two exceptions, every presidential candidate in both parties is condemning the BDS movement. Lets start with the two exceptions. The first exception is the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has taken the accurate position that “the United States has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Israeli government”. She has pledged to use both diplomatic and economic means to change Israeli behaviour, behaviour which she rightly believes is in contravention of international law and violates human rights.

The second exception is the Republican candidate Donald Trump, who recently told a meeting of Jewish Republicans that he didn’t think Israel is serious about peace and that they would have to make greater efforts to achieve it. When he was booed he just shrugged and told the crowd that he did not care if they supported him or not, “I don’t want your money.” Unfortunately, this appears to be the only policy area where Mr Trump is reasonable.

Jill Stein gets absolutely no media coverage and Donald Trump gets too much. And neither is in the “mainstream” when it comes to American political reactions to BDS. However, the rest of the presidential candidates are. Here is what is coming out of the “mainstream”:

  • Jeb Bush (Republican), 4 December 2015: “On day one I will work with the next attorney-general to stop the BDS Movement in the United States, to use whatever resources that exist” to do so.
  • Ted Cruz (Republican), 28 May 2015: “BDS is premised on a lie and it is anti-Semitism, plain and simple. And we need a president of the United States who will stand up and say if a university in this country boycotts the nation of Israel then that university will forfeit federal taxpayer dollars.”
  • Marco Rubio (Republican), 3 December 2015: “This [BDS] coalition of the radical left thinks it has discovered a clever, politically correct way to advocate Israel’s destruction. As president, I will call on university presidents, administrators, religious leaders and professors to speak out with clarity and force on this issue. I will make clear that calling for the destruction of Israel is the same as calling for the death of Jews.”
  • Hillary Clinton (Democrat), 2 July 2015: In a letter to Haim Saban, who is a staunch supporter of the Zionist state and also among the biggest donors to the Democratic Party, she said: “I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority; I am seeking your advice on how we can work together – across party lines and with a diverse array of voices – to fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimise Israel.”
  • Bernie Sanders (Democrat), 20 October 2015: “Sanders’ fraught encounter with BDS supporters who challenged his defence of Israel at a town hall meeting in Cabot [Vermont] last year was captured on YouTube.” Sanders told them to “shut up”.

The legitimacy of boycott

This hostility to the tactic of boycott runs counter to both US legal tradition and the country’s broader historical tradition.

For instance, advocating and practising BDS can be seen as a constitutionally protected right. It certainly is more obviously protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech than is the use of money to buy elections. Thus, if Zionist lobbyists can use money to buy support for Israel, why can’t anti-Zionists use their free speech rights to challenge that support? It should be noted that, in this regard, most Americans of voting age think it is the Zionists, and not the anti-Zionists, who have gone too far.

…if Zionist lobbyists can use money to buy support for Israel, why can’t anti-Zionists use their free speech rights to challenge that support?

According to a December 2015 Brookings Institute poll, 49 per cent of Democratic voters and 25 per cent of Republican voters think that Israel has too much influence with US politicians. Those supporting BDS in the United States might give some thought as to how to use these numbers to uphold their cause.

Then there is the fact of well-established historical tradition. The war for American independence was build upon a framework of boycott. In November 1767, England introduced the Townshend Acts, requiring the colonists to pay a tax on a large number of items. The reply to this was both a boycott of British goods by many colonial consumers which was eventually followed by a boycott on the import of such goods on the part of colonial merchants.

Subsequently, Americans have used the tactic of boycott against:

  • (1930s) Goods produced by Nazi Germany
  • (1960s and 1970s) California-grown grapes in support of the United Farm Workers
  • (1970s and 1980s) All aspects of the economy and cultural output of South Africa
  • (1980) The Moscow-hosted Olympics

The reality is that the tactic of boycott has long been as American as the proverbial apple pie.


Apple pie not withstanding, the legal and historical legitimacy of boycott no longer has much impact on the attitudes of presidential candidates or, for that matter, members of Congress. Nor does the fact that the changes the BDS movement seeks to make in Israeli behaviour would be to the benefit of US interests in the Middle East.

Instead, what the positions of the candidates seem to indicate is that there will be an almost certain attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, coming from the very highest levels of US power, sometime soon after the 2016 elections.

How is it that such a contradiction between national interests and established tradition on the one hand, and imminent government policy on the other can exist? The answer is not difficult to come by. It is just a matter of fact that constitutional rights, historical tradition, and indeed the very interests of the nation, can be overridden by special interest demands – the demands of what George Washington once called “combinations and associations” of “corrupted citizens” who would “betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country” in favour of those of some other “favourite nation”. It is exactly such demands that are now given priority by the politicians in Washington.

This form of corruption will go on as long as the general public does not seem to care that it is happening. And it is sadly clear that the BDS activists alone cannot overcome this indifference. Thus, the politicians can dismiss the Brookings Poll numbers mentioned above. They can shrug and say, So what? As long as that majority does not express their opinion by actively demanding a change in the situation, as long as they are not successfully organised to do so, their opinion cannot compete with the millions of special interest dollars flowing into political campaigns.

In many ways our greatest enemy is our own indifference to the quiet erosion of important aspects of the democratic process. Allowing the attack on BDS only contributes to this disintegration of rights. A combination of localness and ignorance sets us up for this feeling of indifference. However, in the end, there can be no excuse for not paying attention. One morning you will wake up to find that valued rights and traditions are no longer there for you.

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Fugitive Mansour Hadi’s Brother Killed in Saudi-Led Air strike

Report: Mansour Hadi's Brother Killed in Saudi-Led Airstrike
The brother of Yemen’s CIA puppet fugitive President Mansour Hadi was killed in the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led forces’ air strike in Sana’a on Wednesday, media reports said.

“Nasser Hadi was killed in the Saudi-led fighter jets’ strike on a place where he was incarcerated in the Yemeni capital,” the Arabic-language El-Nashra website quoted member of the Yemeni Popular Congress Party Yasser al-Yamani as saying.

He noted that the dead body of Mansour Hadi’s brother is now in Sana’a’s mortuary.

Nasser Hadi was in charge of the intelligence service in Aden province and he was arrested by the Yemeni popular forces last year before he could flee to Saudi Arabia.

Aden province has been the scene of numerous attacks against pro-Hadi forces; the latest case was assassination of Aden governor Ja’afar Saeed.

In late December, the Yemeni forces besieged the palace of Mansour Hadi in the province of Aden.

A newly-formed militant group calling itself ‘Southern Yemen’s Resistance Forces’ have besieged Hadi’s place of residence in Aden, Arab media outlets reported Wednesday.

Political analysts speculate that the siege of Hadi’s palace has taken place with the greenlight of the United Arab Emirates as a result of a row between the UAE and Saudi Arabia over Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah.

The speculations come as the UAE Crown Zionist puppet Mohammed bin Zayed has recently met the leaders of Southern Yemen, including a senior Yemeni Salafi leader Hani bin Barik, in Abu Dhabi.

Political observers believe that the quarrel between Hadi and his prime minister derives from the underlying row between Saudi Arabia as supporter of Hadi and UAE as supporter of Bahah.

Hadi and Bahah have been running a feud for the past several months, and their differences grew noisy when a number of Saudi Zio-Wahhabi officials worked out a plan to replace the former president with his premier – who had both fled to Saudi Arabia then – in order to encourage the revolutionary forces back in Yemen to work with him and allow him to start a new government.


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Image result for MADAYA PHOTO

Letter written to the CBC ombdusman by an informed member of the public in Canada, enraged by the blatant anti Syrian stance in the CBC reporting of the Madaya “starvation” situation.


I have counted The Current and CBC news as among the most reliable sources of news and information we have. I consider myself an informed listener and I consult with many and diverse news sources to get the fullest and clearest understanding of world affairs possible.

That’s why it is disappointing, and sometimes infuriating when I hear the CBC reduced to an echo chamber and propaganda conveyance when it comes to news from the Middle East.

The CBC’s use of unreliable and unverified sources and information that presents and thus promotes only one side of events, and a distorted one at that, is shocking to me. Is it due to cutbacks that you are unable to have investigative reporting from conflict areas that reports on all sides of an event, or is there something more sinister going on exercising editorial control over what Canadians are allowed to hear from the Middle East via our national broadcaster?

Specifically, I was very upset to hear The Current’s Jan 8th report with Lyse Doucet on the situation in Madaya, Syria that gave a completely distorted and misinformed picture of the siege of this town (and several others that are getting zero news coverage).

The presenter relied on only one source, a citizen journalist named Rami Jarrah who works for the George Soros funded ANA Press, and is a self-avowed advocate and spokesperson for the terrorist factions, disingenuously called “the opposition” by uncritical media, that has the town of Madaya and several others in the West and North of Syria under militant siege. It is these Islamist militants–Ahrar al Sham and al Qaeda– that seized the food aid delivered by the ICRC last October–meant to last for 2 months–and is keeping the towns people on starvation rations, stockpiling the food then trying to sell it to the towns people for obscene prices.

Why isn’t that being reported on?

It is the militants that are refusing to let the townspeople leave to find refuge in safe zones. It is these militants who are starving and killing them. These Islamist militants, “the opposition” as propagandists call them, are using the starving people under their control to deceive the world, including the use of now exposed deceptive pictures of starving people stolen from the internet to foment outrage–pictures that are uncritically and irresponsibly used by media outlets like the CBC as some kind of “proof” that the Assad regime is responsible for this suffering.

While these areas of conflict are surrounded by government forces, it is the terrorists occupying the villages that are not surrendering and continue to use people as human shields ad for propaganda. Did The Current or is the CBC news desk presenting any of this balance at all to your stories on Syria? No. You are being played, and worse are a willing participant in a one-sided, anti-Syrian government, pro-Syria destruction campaign.

Why Madaya?

Why now?

Why fake pictures?

These are the questions you should be asking. The answer is because Jarrah and these “humanitarian interventionists” are using and abusing these civilians to enlist more western involvement.

You are not listening to any of the voices coming from inside Syria because you seem to value those minority voices outside Syria that are vying for overthrow of the government and seek to grasp power for themselves in lockstep with western hegemonic agendas.

Thus you are not doing your job.

What you are promoting, maybe inadvertently, maybe not, is for Syria to be devastated by NATO the way Iraq and Libya were, and not for the human rights of the people of Syria.

So shame on you.

This is despicable and my respect for the CBC has diminished significantly.

I urge the CBC to return to it’s roots of unbiased investigative journalism and be committed to the truth so that I can feel confidence again to tune into CBC news and trust we are getting the best information.

Balance your blatantly biased sources with “the other side”– the Syrian government that is backed by the vast majority of Syrian people, and the Syrian doctors and activists that are actually working to free their country from the terrorists!! Listen to the Syrians INSIDE SYRIA!

Why would you NOT do that?


Annette Lengyel


Activists call for American Indian genocide monument near Moscow US embassy


Russian activists are requesting permission to install a monument near the US embassy in Moscow dedicated to the genocide of American Indians. A member of the Russian Public Chamber says the move could soon get official support.

The activists have launched a petition in support of the monument on the website. It says that “despite assuming the position of a ‘global policeman’ the United States still refuses to accept the responsibility for killing over 15 million Native Americans.”

The petition goes on to call for public support for the monument, which would be dedicated to “the memory of American Indians who perished as heroes in the unfair war with treacherous invaders.”

According to the author of the document, the request will be forwarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and to the Russian Public Chamber.

Public Chamber member Valery Korovin said in comments to RIA Novosti that the petition was timely and official support for it was very likely.

“The initiative to install this monument is very urgent today because it would remind everyone how the history of the United States started. It must become a silent reproach to the modern-day American elites who have seriously diverged from the ideals that were made a foundation of American statehood,” Korovin told reporters.

He also noted that activists should consider a separate petition calling on the US Congress to recognize the genocide of American Indians and to pass a law on the rehabilitation of Native Americans – which is necessary for the US “be done with this dark spot in their history.”

“Without the repentance of US society it is impossible to talk about this country’s leadership. The United States now has no moral right to speak about the rights and freedoms of any ethnic groups,” he added.

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