Archive | July 17th, 2016

Ivanka Trump’s rabbi and the state of relations between I$raHell and American Jews

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Lookstein
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (L) helped convert Ivanka Trump to Judaism but his authority has now been rejected by an Israeli rabbinical court
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An argument over the religious credentials of the US rabbi who converted Donald Trump’s daughter to Judaism has spilled over into the fractious debate about the relationship between American Jews and the state of Israel.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein is one of America’s most prominent rabbis and helped guide Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism before she married her Jewish husband in 2009.

But when one of Rabbi Lookstein’s other American coverts tried to get married in Israel, she ran into a major problem: an Israeli religious court said it did not recognise the rabbi’s authority and therefore her conversion was invalid.

She was a not a Jew, as far as the panel of judges were concerned, and her rabbi had no standing in Israel.

The court decision was seen as a stunning rejection of the liberal Judaism widely practiced in the US by an ultra-Orthodox religious establishment that wields major power within the Israeli state.

“It’s a huge slap in the face for American Jewry,” said Zvika Klein, the Jewish world correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon.

orthodox
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government depends on the support of ultra-Orthodox political parties

The case raises some painful questions for Americans Jews who for decades have supported Israel financially and politically but today feel that their form of Judaism is not welcomed by Israel’s religious authorities.

Yet the implications are not just theological.

In the words of an Israeli parliamentary committee, US Jews are “a strategic asset” for Israel that helps ensure the world’s only superpower continues to support the Jewish state. Alienating American Jewry over religion could have spill over effects on Israel’s security and diplomatic relationship with the US.

“Because of Israel’s strategic diplomatic decision not to recognize their Jewishness, we will exclude the US Jewry,” said Efraim Halevy, a former chief of the Mossad spy agency.

Britain’s far smaller Jewish community is more religious than America’s and less out of sync with Israel’s religious leaders.

At the heart of the debate is the difference between the Judaism widely practiced in the US and that of Israel’s religious power brokers.

More than 80 per cent of America’s 5.4 million Jews are non-Orthodox, meaning they practice some form of more liberal Judaism or are not religious at all, according to a 2013 Pew Research survey

That puts them at odds with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the deeply Orthodox institution that is an official part of the state, and the Ultra-Orthodox political parties which play a key role in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

A spokesman for Chief Rabbinate did not respond to a request for comment.

The case of Rabbi Lookstein, who is in fact Orthodox but practices a relatively relaxed form of Orthodoxy, is just the latest in a series of clashes between the two sides.

The most high profile division has been over the Western Wall, the Jerusalem holy site that is visited each year by millions of Jews from around the world.

In line with Orthodox practices, the Wall is split into different prayer spaces for men and women.

But a growing movement, propelled by America’s liberal Reform Jews, has for years demanded a space where men and women can pray together.

“The ultra-Orthodox want a lockstep form of Judaism and they want that form to be their own interpretation,” said Rabbi Susan Silverman, a member of Women of the Wall, a group that campaigns for equal access for women.

western wall
Women were arrested for praying in a non-Orthodox fashion at the Western Wall in 2013

A compromise appeared to have been reached earlier this year but the deal looks in danger of collapsing after objections by the religious parties in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition.

America’s liberal Jewish leaders are not hiding their anger over the breakdown. “This agreement, if it falters, its collapse will signal a major rift between diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of America’s Union for Reform Judaism, .

Some are looking to Israel’s secular supreme court to settle the matter, hoping that the Orthodox rabbis used to arguing the intricacies of the Torah can be outmaneuvered in the courts.

Mr Netanyahu, who is secular, seems paralysed on the issue. While the Israeli prime minister deeply understands the importance of the relationship with American Jews, his domestic political situation means he cannot afford to alienate his religious coalition allies.

Other high profile Israelis have rushed into the breach to stick up for their American brethren on the Lookstein issue, if not on other fronts.

After the rabbinical court rejected Rabbi Lookstein’s credentials, a crowd of around 150 Israelis gathered to protest outside the Chief Rabbinate’s Jerusalem offices.

“We want a Rabbinate with a soul.” Scathing stuff.

Among them was Natan Sharansky, the Russian Jew who spent nine years in a Soviet gulag before moving to Israel and becoming a government minister. Today, he heads the Jewish Agency, the organisation that helps connect foreign Jews to Israel.

“The Jewish Agency fights to strengthen Israel’s stature among world Jewry and we protest this unacceptable blow to the vital bond between Israel and diaspora Jewry,” he told the crowd of protesters.

The Lookstein case has been appealed to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, which could overturn the lower court’s ruling and acknowledge the American rabbi’s credentials.

But even if it does – and the higher court rabbis seemed unconvinced during a hearing this week – the larger questions about the relationship between American Jews and the Jewish state remain from far resolved.

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Brexit and the future of EPA

There is a distinct possibility of a much smaller “Little England” looking at itself in the mirror and asking how it might salvage its relations with Africa in order to continue to get Africa’s resources and markets. This time, Africa should not let England divide and rule it; it must take the opportunity to unite and negotiate as one continent.

When things fall apart, they don’t do so by accident. There are underlying deeper historical and civilizational forces. No civilization has existed for ever. European civilization is ebbing in front of our eyes – for those who have eyes to see.  Though there are many challenges ahead, we are living through exciting times. Africans of younger generation are destined to play a major role in the shaping of a new civilization.

It is therefore important to place ourselves in a wider global and historical context in order to analyse the impact of Brexit for Africa’s relations with Europe and the rest of the world.

Brexit is simply a wave on the horizon of civilizational ocean

Brexit is a blip. Of course, in the immediate to foreseeable future, this wave could be cataclysmic.  Or perhaps a blessing?

One event one might predict is the breakup of the European integration project. It was long time coming. Why? Because this project was based on three unsustainable principles:

1. What is “Europe” today is founded on 500 years of exploitation of Africa, Latin America and Asia: Starting with slavery, then colonialism, and now economic and political relations based on asymmetry of power and plundering of  natural and labour resources of the South.  Some might say: that is history; it is past, gone. This is how the outgoing British Prime Minster Cameron responded to the former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson’s suggestion that Britain owes an official apology to the Caribbean people for slavery.  Slavery, Cameron said, was a long time ago; “as friends we can move on together to build for the future.” [1] No, Mr. Cameron, you are wrong; you are also wrong about the feelings of your own people, as the outcome of the referendum shows.

2. Europe is based on the power of a plutocratic oligarchy. It is called “the Establishment”. Brexit is an anti-establishment revolt of the British people. Just like what is happening in the US presidential elections – both Trump and Sanders are anti-establishment. Throughout history the British Establishment has resolved recurrent crises under capitalism by throwing the burden on the working classes. Since the 1880s the industrial working classes have organised themselves to struggle for their rights. However, the capitalist class has been able to secure its hegemony through using the ideology of free market and the manipulation of the state. An example of the latter is the way the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, on the eve of the referendum, threatened an austerity budget in the event of Brexit – vote to remain in Europe, or else the skies will fall on you.  Does it sound callous and insensitive?  It might, but this is the method used by the British Establishment (which includes the Blairite wing of the Labour Party).  However, the people were not fooled: the City of London voted to remain in Europe; but the rural areas voted for Brexit.

3.  A third unsustainable principle of the British Empire is that it can sustain itself only through war and mass killings – just like the American system. William C. Lewis in his ‘U.S. Imperialism and America’s War Machine: A Destructive Apparatus‘ [2] has shown how Corporate Imperial Militarism controls U.S. society and wages destructive occupations abroad to serve the capitalist interests of the war-making and arms manufacturing class whose bombs eradicate human beings for profit. The British economy is based on two major “products”. One is paper money. The “City” conjures up wealth from literally nothing – from thin air – based on fictitious and speculative capital.[3] The second is the arms industry – the more weapons Britain sells to, for example, to Saudi Arabia to kill people in Yemen, and to African rulers to kill people in, for example, Somalia, the more Britain’s so-called “GDP” grows – a ghastly testimony to British civilization.

Yes, Brexit is simply a wave on the horizon of civilizational ocean, but it is a portentous wave following bigger waves of 500 years of slavery and predation – perhaps a precursor to many more waves before the end of this civilization.[4]

Brexit and the future of EPA

The bigger historical and global time-space perspective must always be kept in mind, but the moment is also significant. The cosmic contradiction is also embodied in the moment. What happens to Ireland, to Scotland, to the European Union, to the immigrants in the UK – all these are “moments” that embody the larger time-space contradictions. They are very important for the lives of ordinary people, and much more.

Let me fast forward to one of these “moments” – the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that the Eurocrats in Brussels are threatening to impose on Africa.

I will start with the famous quote of Frantz Fanon: “Europe is literally the creation of the Third World”.[5] To understand Europe it is necessary to understand Africa– and vice versa, to understand Africa it is necessary to understand Europe. Imperial Europe destroyed colonial Africa, and reshaped it to its own image. The old cultures of Africa were replaced by new commoditised relations with Europe. Post-independence, Europe simply altered the form of its relations with Africa, but not the content of colonial rule – a relationship based on power asymmetry and newly created structures like the EPA.

Post-Brexit both Africa and Europe have to reconfigure their relationship. We can count on the European Commission to pretend that nothing has changed, and that we must now begin to extend the EPA beyond 2020. Africa must question that. Of all the countries in Europe, the UK has the biggest footprint on Africa, overshadowing that of France and Germany. With the UK out of Europe, two separate but parallel sets of negotiations must begin: one between Africa and the EU and the other between Africa and the United Kingdom.

Let us look at the latter first.

The UK clearly is not ready to open up a separate dialogue with Africa. It will take months and months of commotion in the UK before the dust settles down and Africa is put on its agenda. Only Britain can initiate the process of exiting Europe under Article 50 of the treaty. It is a mindboggling process involving technicians and politicians in all the present member countries of the EU.

Post-Brexit developments seem to suggest that the United Kingdom will break up. Already Scotland is preparing to secede from the UK. My guess is that it will indeed separate from the UK and make a deal with the EU. Brexit is also a good moment for Ireland to unite and form one nation. The country has been divided for far too long between the Catholics and the Protestants. Sinn Fein is contemplating a border poll on united Ireland.

There is a distinct possibility of a much smaller “Little England” looking at itself in the mirror and asking how it might salvage its relations with Africa in order to continue to get Africa’s resources and markets. This time, Africa should not let England divide and rule it; it must take the opportunity to unite and negotiate as one continent. Africa, united, holds all the cards. The geopolitics have changed dramatically: Africa is already getting a far bigger and better deal with China on trade and investments than the UKI or the EU, though in my view not as good as it could be.

What, then, of the relations between Africa and the continental Europe?  Let us begin with the rumour that the EPA with East Africa is to be signed at the UNCTAD conference in Nairobi, 17-22 July. The rumour apparently originates from the 23-27 May meeting between the European Commission and the Sectoral Council of EAC ministers. But this does not matter anymore. With the UK out of Europe, with whom exactly is Africa going to negotiate? Europe appears to be moving on three parallel tracks: the core countries of Germany and France; the original six members of the EU; and the 26 present members. With which “Europe” should Africa negotiate?

Nigeria now need not sign the EPA by the deadline of 1 October 2016. It can RENEGOTIATE, and so can the rest of the members of ECOWAS.  ECOWAS nations must upfront regional integration before signing another EPA with Europe. Indeed, the Cotonou Agreement recognised the primacy of regional integration over EPA with Europe.  The European Commission subtly changed REPA into EPA. Over time – like a distorting mirror – the REPA became EPA, then EPA became IEPA, then FEPA, then CEPA, and so on (‘R’ is Regional, ‘I’ is Interim; ‘F’ is Framework; and ‘C’ is Comprehensive). The core ‘EPA’ remained, and although nobody talked about it, the ‘EPA’ has in fact become ‘NEPA’ (National EPA), for the EC had effectively been signing separate national EPAs with individual African countries. [6] Africa has now a golden opportunity to return to REPA.  NEPAs and EPAs must be replaced by the original mandate of the Cotonou Agreement – REPAs.

Above all there are complex technical, legal and constitutional issues that need to be addressed. United Nations human rights expert Alfred de Zayas has warned that any plan by the European Union to bypass national parliaments to push through controversial trade deals would violate international human rights norms.[7]

African governments and the African Union should also note this when it comes to ratifying any agreement with the United Kingdom or the European Union.

Conclusion

As the above analysis shows, we are now entangled in an unpredictable time-space trajectory.  Things are not about to move any time soon. In any case, Africa must never again allow itself to be fragmented by the divide and rule strategy of the Empire.

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Zimbabwean land reform: Between Mugabe’s controversies and Britain’s responsibilities

Andrew Crowley

President Robert Mugabe is not solely to blame for the economic problems facing Zimbabwe as many in the western world have claimed.

In some economic policies like land reform, Mugabe’s management has had some positive effects, even though the reform has not been completely successful. Responsibility for the partial success of the land reform, rather than being entirely attributed to Mugabe, should be shared between Mugabe and the British government.Land reform in Zimbabwe is a crucial matter in development, as according to the World Bank (WB) (2008), agriculture remains instrumental in the achievement of sustainable poverty alleviation. Land reform in Zimbabwe epitomises President Mugabe’s controversial governance and lies at the heart of the tense relations between Zimbabwe and Britain.

When, in January 2015, Robert Mugabe, the 90-year-old president of Zimbabwe in office since 1980, was appointed chairperson of the assembly of the African Union (AU), many expressed their concerns and dismay. Piers Pigou, Project Director of the International Crisis Group in Southern Africa, stated: “His elevation sends a negative signal of African solidarity with leaders who’ve misruled their countries” (Al Jazeera 2015). Obert Gutu, a representative of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, accused Mugabe of having damaged both the economy and the nature of democracy in the country (ibid). 62% of Zimbabweans recently declared, in fact, that they are discontent with the country’s economic situation (Afrobarometer 2014-2015).

In spite of these serious criticisms, shared by many African heads of state, when Zimbabwe’s turn to have its chairperson of the AU came, Mugabe’s appointment was not officially challenged. This occurrence uncovers the controversies around the figure of Mugabe. He has been considered, for instance, both a national hero who united and freed his country, and, as the historian Stuart Doran (2014) elucidates, the responsible for the genocide of 20,000 Ndebele people, who in the 1980s opposed Mugabe’s party ZANU-PF. Furthermore, Freedom House (2015) has recently accused him of political violence and infringements of human rights, especially during elections.

The democratic deficit of Zimbabwe due to Mugabe’s government is indisputable: the EU sanctioned the country in 2002 and recently renewed the sanctions as a result of Mugabe’s electoral frauds and human right abuses (Reuters 2015). Regarding the economy, Mugabe’s role in it has not been completely detrimental as many in the western world have claimed. In some economic policies like land reform, Mugabe’s management has had some positive effects on the population of Zimbabwe, even though the reform has not been completely successful. The responsibilities for the partial success of the Zimbabwean land reform, rather than being solely attributed to Mugabe’s management, should be shared between Mugabe and the British government.

Land reform in Zimbabwe has historically had a crucial importance. As clarified in an Africa All Party Parliamentary Group’s report on the issue, “Land has been not just the basis of Zimbabwean economy, but an integral part of its politics and identity” (2009, p. 18). Consequently, in 1980, one of the main priorities of the newly appointed President Mugabe was land redistribution from white commercial farmers to black farmers. This was due to the fact that 70% of arable land was owned at the time by white farmers who accounted for only 1% of the population (ibid, p.19). Mugabe declared that “[Zimbabweans] can never have peace in the country unless the peasant population is satisfied” (in Bright 2011, min 23:44). Hence, he committed in the over 30 years of his government to land redistribution in order to lift the peasant population of Zimbabwe out of poverty.

Land reform in Zimbabwe has been a long and complex process. From 1980 until 1990, land was being allocated from white farmers to black ones on a willing buyer-willing-seller basis, meaning that only land put willingly on sale could be acquired by the government for redistribution. Britain provided the government of Zimbabwe with the funds necessary to buy land on a dollar-to-dollar basis: every dollar of aid received was spent on land purchases, as Professor Moyo, a leading expert on Zimbabwean land reform, clarifies (2001). Such criteria were established in the 1979 Lancaster House agreement between the British government and the future leaders of Zimbabwe, including Mugabe.

In 1992 the terms of the Lancaster House agreement expired and the Zimbabwean government introduced compulsory land acquisition principles in its constitution (ibid). New negotiations between Britain and Zimbabwe started, but failed very soon. In 1997, Blair refused to subsidize the Zimbabwean land purchase, due to a lack of transparency over the receivers of land. Many, in fact, thought that Mugabe had actively distributed land to his cronies, rather than to the poor.

Hence, Mugabe, who was under a great political pressure due to war veterans’ demands for pensions and land, responded with a forced acquisition of over 1,000 farms, many of which were taken violently from white farmers (Birght 2011, min 57:27). Mugabe, once again, did not hesitate to use violence to pursue his political ends.  This new phase of land distribution, known as Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP), started in 2000 and is still ongoing.

Mugabe’s policies of land redistribution have been criticised by David Smith in the Guardian (2010) as ineffective in pursuing the social rebalancing they were aiming for, as many saw them merely as a way to distribute land to black elites supporting Mugabe. This has been proved to be largely untrue. In the 1980s, land distribution in Zimbabwe was considered, in the words of The Economist, as “one of the most successful aid programme[s] in Africa” (1989). More recently, with regards to the FTLRP, Ian Scoones, Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, found that two thirds of land in the Masvingo region was given to low income black farmers (in Winter 2010). Of the remaining third of this land, only 5% was allocated to former members of the elite, indicating cronyism (ibid). These findings are confirmed by Moyo (2011) who maintains that land reform in Zimbabwe has been redistributive in nature. Additionally, according to the Zimbabwean paper, The Herald (2016), considered by many a mouthpiece of ZANU-PF, the government has recently introduced a data system which will prevent multiple land ownership and ensure a fair distribution of land. The Zimbabwean land reform seems to have had an overall positive impact on the pursuit of social rebalancing.

The economic outputs of land reform, however, have not been as positive. During the first ten years of land redistributions, Zimbabwean agriculture was flourishing and Zimbabwe, according to the journalist Trevor Ncube, was the “breadbasket of Southern Africa” (in Bright 2011, min 25:15). The World Bank (2015) refers to 1990s as a time of “strong economic performances” for Zimbabwe, as agriculture constitutes nearly a fifth of the Zimbabwean GDP and a functioning agricultural sector has always provided a boost to the Zimbabwean economy (WB, ND).

This trend did not continue under the FTLRP. According to Scoones (2014), farm workers were negatively affected by this programme and many casual workers, mostly women, found themselves unemployed, due to the violent farm expropriations of the 2000s. Between 45,000 and 70,000 farm workers households were displaced after 2002 (Scoones 2013). Additionally, Scoones suggests that the violent seizure, by black peasants, of farms owned by white farmers as a result of FTLRP undermined the social cohesion of Zimbabwe (in Winter 2010). White farmers could, in fact, work as consultants or “marketing men” for the new black commercial farmers, but many of them refused to do so as they were violently dispossessed of their land (ibid).

Finally, the production of maize, the main subsistence crop in Zimbabwe, and tobacco dropped after 2000 (ibid). Tobacco seems to have almost disappeared, as Matt Gwelo, a Zimbabwean student in Manchester, noticed after his last trip home.  Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of the region, is today dependent on food aid from the US and the EU due to the 2016 drought, as recently reported by the Guardian (2016), and 73% of its population now lives in poverty (WB, ND).

The UK government bears responsibilities for these negative outcomes, not only Mugabe. John Major in 1996 agreed with Mugabe to re-establish the Lancaster House undertakings, as both Professor Moyo (2001) and Heidi Holland (2009), author of the book Dinner with Mugabe, recall.  When Blair became prime minister, however, he refused to abide by this agreement. If Blair had continued subsidising land reform, possibly the FTLRP would have never been implemented. Blair’s demands for transparency as a condition for funding, due to his concerns (proved unfounded) that the recipients of land were not the poor, were too unrealistic for the time. The level of statistical capacity of Zimbabwe in the 1990s was, according to the World Bank (ND), insufficient (scoring 54 out of 100) and no accurate statistics on the recipients of land distribution could be produced. Not funding land distribution, Britain not only denied crucial support to Mugabe in a time when it was needed the most, as the president was under political pressure by war veterans, but also prevented new black farmers from receiving training on the cultivation of tobacco, whose production consequentially dropped.

The Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai (2009) argues that aid donors should be concerned with avoiding funding corrupt autocrats without forgetting citizens and normal people. Britain, suspending its aid programme in Zimbabwe, did not seem to have considered the long-term damages this caused to the people who are now risking starvation, such as the farm workers who are the ones who suffered the most from the cutting of funds of the Blair administration.

Britain’s refusal to fund land reform gave Mugabe the opportunity to present himself as the defender of African freedom against imperialism, by condemning Blair as an enemy of Zimbabwe and polarising the relations between the two countries. Britain, on the other hand, has been demonising Mugabe throughout the 2000s: examples of this can be found in British newspaper headlines referring to Mugabe as “Hitler” (Africa Report 2014). Dr Tendi from the University of Oxford explains that “These examples of demonisation helped forge a perception in Britain that Mugabe was somehow ‘evil’ and that it was the ‘good’ British government’s duty to take a strong moral stand on Mugabe’s leadership” (ibid). Such narratives have a detrimental impact on the future relations between the two countries. Overcoming them and recognising Britain’s responsibilities in the partial success of land redistribution in Zimbabwe would be essential for a reconciliation between the two countries which might be meaningful for the economic recovery of Zimbabwe.

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The African Union, a turning point?

Daily Maverick

The eyes of Africa are this week turned to Kigali, host of the African Union Summit, where a new Chairperson of the AU Commission will be elected. The Summit presents yet another opportunity for African Heads of State and Government to place the continental body on a new path that will genuinely respond to the needs and aspirations of the African people.

This week, as from 10 July and for the following eight days, worldwide interested media attention will be focused on Rwanda. The African Union (AU) will hold its biennial Summit in the panoramic hilly surroundings of Kigali, capital of Rwanda. It will be the 27th Ordinary Summit since the AU took the baton from its illustrious predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

In 2002, when the AU was “proudly” launched in Durban, South Africa, a feeling of elation and justifiable pride pervaded the chanceries across the continent. For, in a matter of three years, Heads of State and Government of member states of the OAU had successfully translated the spirit of the Sirte Declaration that they had adopted on 9.9.99, in the city of the same name in Libya.

The ravages of the Cold War had had a restraining effect on the lofty aspirations of the OAU, for the continent had found itself caught as the involuntary theatre of the competing East-West blocks. Many a courageous decision and consequential instrument adopted in Africa’s quest to free itself from the shackles of under-development and propel it forward was stymied as many member states could hardly devote their undivided attention towards the implementation of the accompanying plans of action and programmes. They were either caught up in the externally-induced ideological rivalries and had therefore to grapple with attendant internecine conflicts or simply did not have the means, financial and otherwise, to translate their ambition conclusively. In the process, the hard-won independence for which countless lives had been sacrificed was seriously compromised and put in jeopardy as rent-seeking considerations overrode ideals.

The end of the Cold War suddenly relegated the importance of the continent which found itself orphaned. The geopolitics had changed. The African leadership rose valiantly to the challenge with the decision and determination to take the destiny of the continent in its own hands. The Sirte Declaration blazed the trail and the AU was born, its end-objective being the emergence of a politically united and economically integrated Africa.

Almost fifteen years later, the fruits are yet to uphold the promise of the flowers. Already, at the Ghana Summit in 2007, Heads of State and Government had come to realise that the institutions set up to give substance to their ambition and lead the continent to the goal they had set for it called for an overhaul. There were simply too many stumbling blocks. The policy consensus was there but there appeared to be a strategic vacuum. The instruments to steer the policy ship forward were unadapted and required a complete re-engineering. A panel of eminent African personalities was constituted which immediately set itself to work and audit the AU. It produced a timely report three months later with far-reaching recommendations. The report was aptly titled: “Towards a People-Centred Political and Socio-Economic Integration and Transformation of Africa”. Regrettably, as is often the case in such enterprises, the mandarins and potentates who put their personal interest ahead of that of the continent put paid to the bulk of the recommendations. The results are there for all of us to take dismal stock of.

The AU Commission has had three Chairpersons so far, experienced, committed and all determined to move and shake our continent forward. But the instruments with and parameters within which they have had to operate have not permitted any of them to fulfil their mandate to their own satisfaction, let alone that of the African constituents.

In Kigali, elections for a new Commission will take place. Three candidatures have been put up for the Chairpersonship and one for the Deputy Chair. They are worthy sons and daughters of Africa and their readiness to serve the continent at that level must be saluted. But such a limited list does not augur well. Our countries have within their fold many a suitable, committed, efficient and competent candidate who can take up the challenge of steering the policy ship away from the turbulent waters onto calmer ones for the larger benefit and interest of Africa and its peoples.

There is a persistent and strong rumour that Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, a seasoned pan-Africanist with years of experience in various fields and currently serving as the United Nations Special Representative and Coordinator for Central Africa, may be ready to take up the challenge. He should indeed. The key lies with the Heads of State and Government who converge on Kigali this week. They are the supreme body of the AU. The exigencies of the time demand an opening of the list and the immediate election of the Chairperson. They have the power to do so.

The stakes are high, the challenges many, on all fronts: international, regional, political, economic, social, cultural. Kigali should be a fresh departure for the AU. It cannot be business as usual! Forward Africa!

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Brexit: A nail in the coffin of neo-colonialism in Africa

Believing that Brexit could represent the beginning of the end for international cooperation is to believe that the world does or should revolve around Europe. The late Pan-Africanist Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) pointed out that those whose thinking is dominated by Euro-centrism and white supremacy often mistakenly “make the particular history of Europe the general history of the world.”

While much of the discourse and debate around the UK referendum to leave the European Union (EU), a move known as Brexit (= Britain + exit), seems centered solely on its impact on Britain, Western Europe as a whole, and the U.S., Foreign Policy Magazine (FP) warns us, Brexit Is Bad News for Africa. Period.” Before listing a litany of cons, from the “loss of British leadership in places like Somalia” to “South Africa, where many large companies are co-listed on the London Stock Exchange,” FP explains a re-worked UK-Africa policy, “even unencumbered by EU inefficiencies, …will leave Britain with a fraction of the influence it currently wields in Africa.” It will also disrupt if not discontinue many UK-led EU initiatives in Africa, according to FP.

The Thursday June 23rd referendum turned out 71.8% of UK voters, deciding 52% to 48% to leave the EU. It was the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election.

For some, Brexit has called into question the purpose of the EU and for some white liberals it has sparked concern over the possibility that it marks the end of internationalism. “The UK will split apart as Scotland goes ahead with a second vote on its own independence. Referendums on EU membership will follow in France and in the Netherlands. Brexit would be a tipping point for the Swedes and their growing Euroskepticism. Economic contagion could spread to Ireland, which is so closely linked to the British economy, and to Portugal, which is so close to default.”

After the EU comes apart at the seams, then perhaps all the various international efforts to pool resources and find common purpose — NATO, ASEAN, the OAS — will suffer a similar failure to cohere.

Surely all of this spells disaster for the whole world, yes?

The 1993 formalizing of the EU was for Africa no different than the 1884 Berlin Conference where Europe united to regulate and cooperate in its Scramble for Africa during heightened colonial activity by European powers. This predecessor union of Europe eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance. Today in Africa the EU plays the role of enforcing neo-colonialism through its Africa Working Party (COAFR) and so-called Africa-EU Strategic Partnership that ensure neo-liberal economic policies dominate Africa. We can be sure that when the partnership claims to cooperate on issues like governance and human rights it is not talking about how European countries are governed or human rights abuses in those countries. It is based on the paternalistic premise that Africa is inherently savage and contemporarily corrupt and naturally prone to abusing human rights.

Believing Brexit could represent the beginning of the end for international cooperation, as some have put it, is to believe that the world does or should revolve around Europe. The late Pan-Africanist Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) pointed out that those whose thinking is dominated by Euro-centrism and white supremacy often mistakenly “make the particular history of Europe the general history of the world.”

Karl Marx demonstrated this when he asserted that religion is the opium of the masses based on its particular history in Europe. Yet ,on the contrary, other parts of the world were able to experience religion in their histories as an enlightening and morally grounding force.

In Walter Rodney’s seminal book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa he explains, “The first significant thing about the internationalization of trade in the 15th century was that Europeans took the initiative and went to other parts of the world. No Chinese boats reached Europe, and if any African canoes reached the Americas (as is sometimes maintained) they did not establish two-way links. What was called international trade was nothing but the extension overseas of European interests. The strategy behind international trade and the production that supported it was firmly in European hands, and specifically, in the hands of the sea-going nations from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.”

In scholarly detail, Rodney outlines how the development of Europe meant the underdevelopment of Africa and vice versa. Through centuries of enslavement, the appropriation and refinement of Africa’s raw materials, setting inequitable terms of trade that favor Europe, and brain drain, and through the rape of Africa and other continents Western Europe has become self-appointed as the First World along with the U.S.

To follow Euro-centric thinking is to also to commit the error of believing that the particular interests of Europe are the same as the general interests of the rest of the world. It assumes that the internationalism facilitated by institutions like the EU, NATO, and the UN serves the best interests of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Fundamentally, the economic and political hegemony enjoyed by both Western Europe and the U.S. is at the expense of the “underdeveloped” world, secured by these institutions.

The epic tug-of-war between the internationalism of communist versus capitalist was not the only type of internationalism to emerge from the 20th century. A non-Western Euro-centric reflection recognizes the history of the movement for Pan-Africanism in the struggle for a united African continent under a socialist government. The original Organization of African Unity (OAU) – now the African Union (AU) – was a direct attempt toward that.

There was also the internationalism of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of states declaring no formal alignment with or against any major power bloc. Its purpose was to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” A milestone of NAM was the 1955 Bandung Conference of Asian and African states hosted by Indonesia that gave a significant contribution to promote the movement under the leadership of President Sukarno.

Then there is the very contemporary internationalism of Latin America, ALBA, (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), an intergovernmental organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

All of these types of internationalism recognized the inherently inhumane nature of capitalist imperialism but, in addition, understood the need to address the cultural white supremacy and racism of global Euro-centrism.

By playing the overall role of maintaining both the domination of international finance capital and the centrality of Western Europe and the U.S., the EU serves in making these three things virtually synonymous and by no means a friend to Africa regardless of official claims in mission statements and benevolent public pronouncements.

Today the EU enforces sanctions on African countries that attempt to exercise their right to national self-determination or who in anyway don’t submit to the self-appointed benevolence of Western Europe and the U.S. Openly the EU admits that it imposes, “Sanctions – also referred to as restrictive measures – against third countries… to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, part of a country, government, entities or individuals.”

Currently the EU is imposing sanctions on 37 countries around the world. Sixteen of those are African countries.

Because history has unfolded in a way that the former colonial powers have set the disposition of economic and political power in the world, sanctions can’t really be enforced against the U.S. or Western European countries, making them altogether unjust, immoral and essentially a tool of neo-colonialism.

The moral orientation of Western Europe and it’s NATO ally, the U.S., has not changed since the Berlin Conference, on through to it conspiring to thwart the African independence movement that swept the continent in the 1950-60s, until now with its use of the CIA, MI6, Interpol, USAID, UK’s DFID to maneuver iron fist and velvet glove type strategies to dominate the world and Africa.

If Brexit represents the beginning of the end of the EU, the only appropriate African response would be to celebrate and forge on to make it represent a nail in the coffin of neo-colonialism.

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How the UN and Canada colluded to kill Lumumba

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The United Nations, then under Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, and Canada played key roles in the assassination of popular Congolese Prime Minister and eminent African statesman Patrice Lumumba. To Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Lumumba was a “major threat to Western interests”. Neither the UN nor Ottawa has ever accepted responsibility.

Fifty-six years ago today the United Nations launched a peacekeeping force that contributed to one of the worst post-independence imperial crimes in Africa. The Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) delivered a major blow to Congolese aspirations by undermining elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Canada played a significant role in ONUC and in Lumumba’s assassination, which should be studied by progressives demanding Ottawa increase its participation in UN “peacekeeping”.

After seven decades of brutal rule, Belgium organized a hasty independence in the hopes of maintaining control over the Congo’s vast natural resources. When Lumumba was elected to pursue a genuine de-colonization, Brussels instigated a secessionist movement in the eastern part of the country. In response, the Congolese Prime Minister asked the UN for a peacekeeping force to protect the territorial integrity of the newly independent country. Washington, however, saw the UN mission as a way to undermine Lumumba.

Siding with Washington, Ottawa promoted ONUC and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. 1,900 Canadian troops participated in the UN mission between 1960 and 1964, making this country’s military one of its more active members. There were almost always more Canadian officers at ONUC headquarters then those of any other nationality and the Canadians were concentrated in militarily important logistical positions including chief operations officer and chief signals officer.

Canada’s strategic role wasn’t simply by chance. Ottawa pushed to have Canada’s intelligence gathering signals detachments oversee UN intelligence and for Quebec Colonel Jean Berthiaume to remain at UN headquarters to “maintain both Canadian and Western influence.” (A report from the Canadian Directorate of Military Intelligence noted, “Lumumba’s immediate advisers… have referred to Lt. Col. Berthiaume as an ‘imperialist tool’.”)

To bolster the power of ONUC, Ottawa joined Washington in channeling its development assistance to the Congo through the UN. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah complained that this was “applying a restriction to Congo which does not apply to any other African state.” Ottawa rejected Nkrumah’s request to channel Congolese aid through independent African countries.

Unlike many ONUC participants, Canada aggressively backed Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. External Affairs Minister Howard Green told the House of Commons: “The Canadian government will continue its firm support for the United Nations effort in the Congo and for Mr. Hammarskjold, who in the face of the greatest difficulty has served the high principles and purposes of the charter with courage, determination and endless patience.”

Ottawa supported Hammarskjold even as he sided with the Belgian-backed secessionists against the central government. On August 12 1960 the UN Secretary General traveled to Katanga and telegraphed secessionist leader Moise Tchombe to discuss “deploying United Nations troops to Katanga.” Not even Belgium officially recognized Katanga’s independence, provoking Issaka Soure to note that, “[Hammarskjold’s visit] sent a very bad signal by implicitly implying that the rebellious province could somehow be regarded as sovereign to the point that the UN chief administrator could deal with it directly.”

The UN head also worked to undermine Lumumba within the central government. When President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as prime minister — a move of debatable legality and opposed by the vast majority of the country’s parliament — Hammarskjold publicly endorsed the dismissal of a politician who a short time earlier had received the most votes in the country’s election.

Lumumba attempted to respond to his dismissal with a nationwide broadcast, but UN forces blocked him from accessing the main radio station. ONUC also undermined Lumumba in other ways. Through their control of the airport ONUC prevented his forces from flying into the capital from other parts of the country and closed the airport to Soviet weapons and transportation equipment when Lumumba turned to Russia for assistance. In addition, according to The Cold War “[the Secretary General’s special representative Andrew] Cordier provided $1 million — money supplied to the United Nations by the US government — to [military commander Joseph] Mobutu in early September to pay off restive and hungry Congolese soldiers and keep them loyal to Kasavubu during his attempt to oust Lumumba as prime minister.”

To get a sense of Hammarskjold’s antipathy towards the Congolese leader, he privately told officials in Washington that Lumumba must be “broken” and only then would the Katanga problem “solve itself.” For his part, Cordier asserted “[Ghanaian president Kwame] Nkrumah is the Mussolini of Africa while Lumumba is its little Hitler.”

(Echoing this thinking, in a conversation with External Affairs Minister Howard Green, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker called Lumumba a “major threat to Western interests” and said he was “coming around to the conclusion” that an independent Western oriented Katanga offered “the best solution to the current crisis.”)

In response to Hammarskjold’s efforts to undermine his leadership, Lumumba broke off relations with the UN Secretary General. He also called for the withdrawal of all white peacekeepers, which Hammarskjold rejected as a threat to UN authority.

A number of ONUC nations ultimately took up Lumumba’s protests. When the Congolese prime minister was overthrown and ONUC helped consolidate the coup, the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Guinea, Morocco and Indonesia formally asked Hammarskjold to withdraw all of their troops.

Canadian officials took a different position. They celebrated ONUC’s role in Lumumba’s overthrow. A week after Lumumba was pushed out prominent Canadian diplomat Escott Reid, then ambassador to Germany, noted in an internal letter, “already the United Nations has demonstrated in the Congo that it can in Africa act as the executive agent of the free world.” The “free world” was complicit in the murder of one of Africa’s most important independence leaders. In fact, the top Canadian in ONUC directly enabled his killing.

After Lumumba escaped house arrest and fled Leopoldville for his power base in the Eastern Orientale province, Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture him. The UN Chief of Staff, who was kept in place by Ottawa, tracked the deposed prime minister and informed Joseph Mobutu of Lumumba’s whereabouts.

Three decades later the Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, born Berthiaume told an interviewer: “I called Mobutu. I said, ‘Colonel, you have a problem, you were trying to retrieve your prisoner, Mr. Lumumba. I know where he is, and I know where he will be tomorrow. He said, what do I do? It’s simple, Colonel, with the help of the UN you have just created the core of your para commandos — we have just trained 30 of these guys — highly selected Moroccans trained as paratroopers. They all jumped — no one refused. To be on the safe side, I put our [Canadian] captain, Mario Coté, in the plane, to make sure there was no underhandedness. In any case, it’s simple, you take a Dakota [plane], send your paratroopers and arrest Lumumba in that small village — there is a runway and all that is needed. That’s all you’ll need to do, Colonel. He arrested him, like that, and I never regretted it.”

Ghanaian peacekeepers near where Lumumba was captured took quite a different attitude towards the elected prime minister’s safety. After Mobutu’s forces captured Lumumba they requested permission to intervene and place Lumumba under UN protection. Unfortunately, the Secretary-General denied their request. Not long thereafter Lumumba was executed by firing squad and his body was dissolved in acid.

In 1999 Belgium launched a parliamentary inquiry into its role in Lumumba’s assassination. Following Belgium’s lead, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs should investigate Canada’s role in the Congolese independence leader’s demise and any lessons ONUC might hold regarding this country’s participation in future UN missions.

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The problem between White policemen and Black males in the US

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Entrenched racism going back to the days of slavery is the reason behind frequent killings of Black men by White policemen in America. White officers see themselves as slave masters who must be obeyed without question by the Black slave.

It was in Louisville, Kentucky, that I first encountered the problem that ultimately – but remotely – resulted in the tragic deaths of five policemen in Dallas, Texas, last week.

The problem? The hostility between Black men (especially young ones) and white police officers.

I was on a short attachment to a prestigious newspaper called the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the magazine section of the weekend paper had asked me to write a piece about my impressions of the United States. To illustrate my piece, the editor asked a photographer to take me around the city and photograph me against the backdrop of recognisable landmarks.

The photographer took me to an overpass on a highway that ran through the city. He asked me to walk along the highway, while he captured the image from a position below the overpass.

I’d only been in the US for a few weeks, so I didn’t know anything about the laws governing places where one might, or might not, walk. I had heard about “jay-walking”; apparently, the American definition of “jay-walking” is different from the definition I was familiar with. I am sure that to the police, what the photographer was asking me to do amounted to “jay-walking”.

Anyway, a police car drove up as I was walking.

The police car was going the opposite way.

It stopped about fifty yards from me.

On the opposite side of the road.

The two white police officers in the car got out.

They beckoned me to cross over to where they were.

I attempted to cross over to where they had parked. But it was a very busy road. There was no crossing point where there would have been lights saying, “WALK” or “DON’T WALK”. I could only cross if and when the traffic allowed it.

The policemen watched as I tried several times – unsuccessfully – to cross the road. Yet they kept beckoning me to come over to their side.

Now, I was aware that a policeman’s order MUST be obeyed in America. Or the result could be FATAL. So I kept attempting to cross the road: I’d take a few steps forward, but would then realise that the vehicles were coming towards me too fast.

The policemen looked at me.

I looked back at the policemen.

They stood where they were and continued beckoning to me to cross over.

They could see my difficulty. But they did not relent.

Neither did they make any attempt to stop the traffic for me to cross the road. Nor did they make any attempt themselves to cross over to my side, though they were in uniform and the oncoming vehicles would have checked their speed on seeing them.

So – Deadlock!

“God almighty!” I thought. “This is a situation from hell! These policemen, like all policemen in the United States, are armed. If I don’t obey what they are instructing me to do, they may think I have something to hide and so don’t want to cross over to them. They might even think that I am faking my inability to cross the road!”

The situation might have developed into a very nasty one for me had not the photographer used his presence of mind and realised that a “confrontation” between a young back man and white police officers in America was no joking matter.

I saw him running very fast towards the policemen.

He safely reached the policemen and their car.

He talked to them. He showed them his Press pass.

They listened to him and nodded their heads.

Then they drove off without looking at me.

Nothing was said to me. It was as if I didn’t exist.

We left the scene and drove back to the office. IN SILENCE!

My imagination now set furiously to work.

Suppose the photographer had not been a white man like the policemen but had been a black man like myself? What would have become of him as he ran towards the policemen?

If they had perceived a black man running as a potential threat, would they have opened fire to ‘protect themselves’?

I swear, although it was a cold November morning, I began to sweat profusely.

The situation illustrated for me was how easy it is for (a) misunderstandings to occur; (b) then to lead to situations that can quickly escalate into a completely different scenario and (c) such scenarios contain pre-determined responses, based on the history, group-think and embedded sociological factors in US society.

To translate that into crude but accurate language: white police officers [slave masters] order a black man [slave] to do something. The black man [slave] “goes through the motions” of complying with the order, but does not succeed, presumably because he has no intention of complying. The slave-master always misconstrues the black man’s inability to comply as an act of deliberate rebellion/defiance/arrogance.

Such challenges by slaves were not tolerated in the past and cannot be tolerated now, either. Rebellion must be punished. But slaves are very strong physically, and the only way to punish them is – to shoot them dead.

Now, when I was growing up, my mother used to warn us to be careful when crossing the road, because, as she put it, “a corpse is always the guilty party before the law!” In other words, if we were knocked down by a motor-vehicle and killed, we would be adjudged guilty of carelessness because, of course, we would not be in a position, ascorpses, to dispute anything alleged against us by the [living[] driver!

This logic is the construct that governs the blackman-killed-by-white-policemen syndrome in the United States.

Sagacious black parents are constrained to have what is called “The Conversation” with their young sons, as soon as the boys reach about age 12.

“The Conversation” goes like this: “Son, what would you do if a policeman told you to “STOP!” as you were walking?”

“I’d ask him why he was asking me to stop?!”

“No, son, you don’t do that. You do as the policeman says. You stop. When you stop, don’t attempt to put your hands in your pocket to pull out a handkerchief or tissue-paper to wipe your face. The policeman will think you are taking out a gun to shoot him and he will “defend” himself by shooting you dead!

“DO NOT attempt, either, to reach into your pocket-book to bring out your ID card, even if he orders you to show some ID! Tell him first that your ID card is in your wallet or glove compartment (if you’re in a car). Let him see your hands all the time.

“DO NOT answer the policeman back if he addresses you in a rough, aggressive manner. So he calls you a “mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch” when you have not done anything. So what? Your priority must be to come out of the encounter alive!

“Challenge the policeman and you will end up dead.

“ Son, do you know how many black men have so far been killed by the police in 2016?”

“No, I don’t!”

“Okay – listen! This is the Huffington Post:

Here’s How Many Black People Have Been Killed By Police This Year – TOO MANY!

“Police [have] killed at least 136 black people in 2016…. Philando Castile became the latest addition to the list [on] Wednesday night [6 July 2016], after an officer shot him dead. …Castile was shot and killed in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota…. The officer “shot him three times because we had a busted tail light,” Castile’s girlfriend [said]…….

“[One day earlier], Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, became the 135th black person killed by police this year [2016)…[He] was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early Tuesday morning [5 July 2016].

“….Black males between the ages of 15 and 34 [are] nine times more likely to be killed by police officers than any other demographic. This group also accounted for 15 percent of all 2015 deaths from law enforcement encounters, despite making up just 2 percent of the U.S. Population.….In 2015, at least 306 black people were killed by police.“ That is, just under one per day..’

“Thank you Dad. I will remember this as long as I live.”

END OF ‘THE CONVERSATION’.

How often will ‘The Conversation’ continue to be conducted between black parents and their offspring? That is the real challenge that the US faces. Electing a black President once in a while will not eliminate the necessity for ‘The Conversation’. Only positive action in police departments and mayoral offices across the land, translated into inflexible rules about how the police should act on the streets or face punishment, will do that.

If that does not happen, and soon, then God help America.

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Martyrs’ Day: Genesis of the Kashmir’s Struggle

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Image result for KASHMIR CARTOON

By Sajjad Shaukat

The Martyrs’ Day, known as Youme Shuhada-e- Kashmir is observed on July 13 every year on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 to free Kashmir from the brutalities of despotic Dogra rulers. The day is the milestone in the history, as it has become genesis of the Kashmir’s struggle for independence against foreign occupation.

However, the history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.

In this regard, Yousaf Saraf in his book, “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas.” In this context, while describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, in his book, “The India We Served”, Sir Walter Lawrence writes, “Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”

On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba (Sermon) ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jummu city for a number of days. It was followed by desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted into outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khankah-e- Muella Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja’s palace, raised slogans “destroy its every brick.” With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court, but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire at him.

When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 22 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan. The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931.

The 22 martyrs are buried in Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.

Consequent upon these brutal killings, the Kashmiri leadership realized the need to form a political party, Muslim Conference (MC) with a view to waging struggle for their freedom.

Later, in 1934, state’s first elections were held and MC won 10 out of 21 seats, and after two years in 1936, it succeeded in getting 19 out of 21 seats. Indian Congress was upset with this situation and tried to create division in the ranks of Kashmiri leadership. Afterwards, on July 19, 1947, MC passed a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, considering the geographical proximity—majority of Muslim population (77%), language and cultural relations of Jammu and Ironically, despite a lapse of 66 years, Kashmiris are still struggling and sacrificing to achieve their alienable right under the UN resolutions for the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir Valley is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world with Indian 7 million armed security forces which are perpetrating various forms of state terrorism on the innocent Kashmiris.

Since 1989, a deliberate campaign by the Indian army and paramilitary forces against the Kashmiris has been manifested in brutal tactics such as crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning the houses, torture, disappearances, rape, breaking the legs, molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounter.

According to a report on human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, since 1989, there have been deaths of 1,00000 innocent Kashmiris, 7,023 custodial killings, 1,22,771 arrests, 1,05,996 destruction of houses or buildings, 22,776 women widowed, 1,07,466 children orphaned and 10,086 women gang-raped/molested. Indian brutal securities forces have continue Besides Human Rights Watch, in its various reports, Amnesty International has also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian controlled Kashmir, indicating, “The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley suffers from the repressive tactics of the security forces. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.”

In its report on July 2, 2015, the Amnesty International has highlighted extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian Held Kashmir. The report points out, “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir…the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant…not a single member of the armed forces has been tried in a civilian court for violating human rights in Kashmir…this lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses…India has martyred one 100,000 people. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police.”

In this respect, European Union passed a resolution on May 11, 2011 about human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the Indian held Kashmir.

Particularly, in 2008, a rights group reported unnamed graves in various regions of the Indian occupied Kashmir. In this context, in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict have been buried in unmarked graves. Notably, foreign sources and human rights organizations including Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have disclosed that unnamed graves include thousands of persons, killed by the Indian forces in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death by Indian secret agency RAW.

In its report China’s leading News Agency Xinhua has unearthed more gruesome details on world-stunning unmarked graves in Poonch of the Indian occupied Kashmir. The report revealed the statement of Sofi Aziz Joo, caretaker of a graveyard as saying, “Police and Army used to bring those bodies and direct me to bury them. The bodies were usually bullet-ridden, mutilated, faces disfigured and sometimes without limbs and heads.”

It seems that non-condemnation of these Indian massive human rights violations and non- interference for the settlement of this issue by the so-called civilized international community, especially the US have further encouraged New Delhi to keep on going with its state terrorism on the armless Kashmiri masses. Ignorance of the issue by them involves the risk of nuclear war between Pakistan and India.

Indian authorities are not willing to talk with Kashmiri people on political grounds. New Delhi reached to a conclusion that only bullet is the right way of dealing with Kashmiris, demanding their right of self-determination. Surprisingly, Indian successive governments are trying to ignore the dynamics of the freedom movement of Kashmiris for the sake of their alien rule.

It is notable that dialogue between India and Pakistan took place on a number of occasions, but produced no outcome, prolonging the agony of the subjugated people of the occupied Kashmir due to Indian intransigence.

Nevertheless, observance of Kashmiris’ freedom struggle during the Martyrs’ Day, every year is reaffirmation of the fact that Kashmiris will continue to fight against Indian illicit occupation. In this context, Youme Shuhada-e- Kashmir is an ideal day for Kashmiris to seek inspiration to take their war of liberation to its logical end. At this time of distress, the people of Pakistan’s side are sharing the grief of Kashmiri freedom lovers. Pakistan also observes Youme Shudaha-e- Kashmir on July 13, launching a protest against the oppressive polices of Indian occupation, which have continued against the hapless Kashmiris.

Nonetheless, on July 13, all over the world, Kashmiris renew their pledge to continue the ongoing war of liberation for the accomplishment of their right of self-determination and for the independence of Kashmir from the despotic Indian rulers who continue state terrorism in the Indian-controlled Kashmir like the Dogra rulers. In these terms, Martyrs’ Day has become genesis of the Kashmir’s Struggle for independence.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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Vigil To Punch A Hole In The Nazi Separation-Apartheid Wall

NOVANEWS
Dr. Dan Tirza was appointed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be the Chief Architect of the Israeli “Security Barrier” (more accurately known by honest observers as the “Separation/Apartheid Wall”). Christians United For Israel (CUFI), the Neo-Christian/Christian Zionist organization, has been showcasing Dr. Tirza at their “Standing With Israel” events that are held in churches around the country. Tom Compton of We Hold These Truths talks about the effectiveness of his one man vigil to challenge The Oasis Church’s CUFI event in Tucson, AZ. It wasn’t planned to be a one man vigil, but that’s how “organizing” goes sometimes. Tom is joined by fellow one man vigiler veterans, Craig Hanson and Chuck Carlson to talk about our vigils of conscience. The New York Times article exposing the myth that Israel built a “Security Barrier” isSmugglers in West Bank Open Door to Jobs in Israel, and Violence and the revealing, Mondoweiss story that fills in the holes the NY Times left out is Front-page article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier.” Also, mentioned in the 23 minute podcast, is These Brothers of Mine by Rob Dalrymple.

Front-page
article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier – See
more at:
http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/exposes-security-barrier/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=4e63dcdaec-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-4e63dcdaec-398411178&mc_cid=4e63dcdaec&mc_eid=57a5890bcf#sthash.oULsEFbv.dpuf
Front-page
article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier – See
more at:
http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/exposes-security-barrier/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=4e63dcdaec-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-4e63dcdaec-398411178&mc_cid=4e63dcdaec&mc_eid=57a5890bcf#sthash.oULsEFbv.dpuf
Front-page
article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier – See
more at:

Front-page article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier

Front-page
article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier – See
more at:
http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/exposes-security-barrier/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=4e63dcdaec-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-4e63dcdaec-398411178&mc_cid=4e63dcdaec&mc_eid=57a5890bcf#sthash.oULsEFbv.dpuf

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Southern Zionist Baptists Reject Peace Plea by Palestinian Pastor

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Southern Baptists debate resolution supporting Israel

The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution June 14 criticizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement to put economic and political pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands despite objections by an Arabic pastor.

Pastor Jamal Bishara of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., argued unsuccessfully that parts the resolution “on prayer and support for Israel” are both biblically and factually incorrect.

Jamal Bishara

Jamal Bishara, pastor of the Phoenix First Arabic Baptist Church spoke a Southern Baptist Convention favoring Israel while ignoring the plight of Chistian and Muslim Palestinians

Bishara, who was born and raised in Nazareth, Israel, said Palestinians have “the right to live peaceably in their land.”

“Among the Palestinians you have brothers and sisters who are Christians also,” Bishara said.

The resolution cites Bible verses including God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis: “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.”

It supports “the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state” and rejects “any activities that attack that right by promoting economic, cultural and academic boycotts against Israel.”

Bishara said he was not asking Southern Baptists to oppose Israel but only those who argue the path to security is annihilation of the Palestinian population.

“That is not a stand that Southern Baptists want to take,” he said. “We have a message of peace.”

“It isolates us and it enters us into the political arena,” the pastor said of the resolution. “We are a spiritual entity to bring forth the message of peace to the world.”

Other SBC resolutions oppose requiring women to register for the draft and affirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

A resolution on refugee ministry encourages Southern Baptists to care for and share the gospel with refugees who come to the United States, while calling on the government to “implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process, guarding against anyone intent on doing harm.”

A resolution calling for greater evangelistic zeal defends the term “soul winning” in sharing the gospel message. Another resolution encourages ministry to individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Other resolutions affirm “biblical sexuality and the freedom of conscience,” freedom of the press and voting as an expression of Christian citizenship.

One resolution calls on Southern Baptists to discontinue the display of the Confederate flag. Another condemns the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., as an “act of terrorism” and urges compassion and prayer for victims and their families.


Southern Baptists Adopt Controversial Resolution on Israel

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke for the resolution before its passage. (Screen capture: Recording of SBC resolutions session)

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers adopted in St. Louis on Tuesday during the annual meeting a resolution deemed by some Arab Baptist leaders as unbiblical and harmful to their peacemaking efforts.

The resolution’s passage came despite a plea from an Arab Baptist from Israel and amid a focus on racial and ethnic reconciliation.

Titled “On Prayer and Support for Israel,” the resolution aligns the SBC with the secular, modern state of Israel.

It also condemns the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement” that seeks to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians.

BDS proponents model their actions on the economic boycott efforts used against the South African apartheid regime.

Jamal Bishara, pastor of the First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, offered a passionate speech against the resolution during the floor debate. He was born and raised in Nazareth, Israel.

“There are many different areas here that are not biblical,” he said as he pointed to the text of the resolution.

Criticizing the resolution for taking one side and including inaccurate statements about Arab nations, he reminded SBC messengers that “among the Palestinians you have your brothers and sisters who are Christians also.”

Bishara also urged a “no” vote since the resolution’s “political issues” would “isolate” Baptists from the Arabic community.

“I am not saying that you vote against Israel,” he added. “I am an Israeli citizen. I love Israel and I love the Jews.”

As Bishara talked about the need for Christians to follow biblical teachings “to be the peacemakers,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd interrupted to urge him to conclude his remarks.

The resolutions committee responded by urging people to support the resolution anyway, calling it similar to past resolutions.

However, no previous SBC resolution mentioned the BDS effort. Additionally, the most similar previous resolution, passed in 2002, called for prayer for both Israelis and Palestinians, rather than just Israelis.

Wes Pastor, lead pastor at Christ Memorial Church in Williston, Vermont, offered his disagreement with how the resolution interpreted Genesis 12.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, then spoke for the resolution before its passage.

Yohanna Katanacho, academic dean at Nazareth Evangelical College and professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem Bible College, expressed his disappointment with the resolution.

“I am truly sad that my Baptist brothers and sisters at SBC have made this resolution,” Katanacho told EthicsDaily.com “I feel that the statement does not address the Palestinian concerns in any way. It is not a fair statement and is not congruent with the biblical understanding of Israel, justice and missions to all the nations of the world including the Jewish people and the Palestinians.”

Katanacho especially expressed concerns that the resolution will hurt peacemaking efforts in which Arab Baptists in Israel and Palestine are actively engaged.

“Their resolution will hinder my peacemaking ministry,” he said. “Israel/Palestine needs Christians who are peacemakers. We cannot be fair peacemakers if we don’t listen to both sides in a fair way.”

“Does God love the Palestinian people?” he added. “Did Jesus die on the cross for them? Can they live like any other nation in their own land? How can we bless Israel without cursing the Palestinians? I am afraid that blessing Israel in a way that ignores the Palestinians is in fact a curse for everyone. It is a program for war, not peace.”

Katanacho authored numerous books considering theological issues involved with some of the biblical passages cited in the resolution, especially Genesis 12. As he explained to EthicsDaily.com last year, that text is often mistranslated in English translations.

“Unfortunately, people abuse the Bible in the name of a political agenda,” Katanacho added about the 2016 resolution.

Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, contrasted the handling of the Israel resolution with how Southern Baptists dealt with racial issues in the United States.

Floyd led an hour-long multi-ethnic panel called “A National Convention of Racial Unity in America” that included remarks from Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention. SBC messengers also passed a resolution urging an end to flying the Confederate Battle Flag.

“I applaud the Southern Baptist Convention’s prioritizing racial reconciliation during its 2016 annual meeting,” Parham said. “It was a good day for all Baptists on race relations in America.”

However, he noted that “a bad moment also occurred that day.” He said that while “the SBC prays for racial unity in the U.S.,” in another ethnic conflict “they only want to pray for Israelis.”

“The SBC adopted a pro-Israel resolution that ignores the existence and plight of Arab Baptists, Baptists throughout the Middle East as well as other Christians in predominantly Muslim countries,” Parham explained. “The resolution is shortsighted, politically charged, biblically flawed and counterproductive to our Baptist and other Christian family members in Israel and the Middle East.”

“We need to recognize that Palestinian Baptists are a minority within a minority within a minority in Israel,” he added. “As Arabs, they are a minority in Israel. As Arab Christians, they are a minority among Arab Muslims. As Baptist evangelicals, they are a minority among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. They need our prayers and support.”

The resolution time on Tuesday ended with an unusual moment as Paul Pressler, the other key leader with Patterson in the rightward shift of the SBC, came to a microphone and complained about not being allowed to speak against the resolution on the Confederate Flag.

Speaking at a microphone after the resolution’s passage, Pressler insisted he should have been given special privilege to speak despite the established protocol.

He charged Floyd and parliamentarian Barry McCarty with a conspiracy to stop him from speaking, calling such an action “very bad, illegal, improper and unfair.”

Floyd had to ask who Pressler was and then later McCarty ordered Pressler’s microphone cut off. With that, the coda might have sounded to Pressler’s work at SBC annual meetings.

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