Archive | October 2nd, 2016

Syria’s Heroic Fight Against Western Imperialism

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By Andre Vltchek 

It is hard to imagine a more resilient, more heroic nation than Syria!

With only 17 million inhabitants (according to the 2014 estimate), Syria is now facing the mightiest coalition on Earth – a coalition that consists of virtually all traditional Western colonialist and neo-colonialist nations.

It is also facing some of the cruelest and deadliest inventions of the West – the extremist and murderous post- and pseudo-Islamic groupings, similar to those that were already unleashed against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan.

Because of the tremendous determination of its people, Syria is still standing! But it is standing against all odds. Its Golan Heights are illegally occupied by Israel, its borders constantly violated by the Turkish military, and by the West’s ‘special forces’ and air force.

Syria’s “political opposition” was created, then groomed and financed by the United States and Europe, in the style of “Color Revolutions”, as has happened in all other socialist countries that the West has been trying to destabilize and return under its deadly rule. Millions of Syrian people have been, during the last six deadly years, terrorized, slaughtered and intimidated by jihadi cadres, implanted by the West and its regional allies: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Israel and others.

It is a terrible and uneven fight! Some of the greatest historical cities on Earth, like Aleppo and Palmira, now lie in ruins and ashes. What the European Christian crusaders failed to fully destroy, is now collapsing under the imperialist onslaught. Like everywhere else on Earth, everything that dares to struggle against Western colonialism is being consistently devastated and burned. Almost everyone who resists is mercilessly slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have already lost their lives. And with each new day, the awful count is rising.

But Syria is standing!

5 million Syrian people have already been forced to leave their country. Now they are being scattered all over the Middle East: throughout Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. Some have even gone as far as Europe, Canada and Chile.

How much more can one country endure?

And how can the rest of the world just stand by and watch as it is put through hell?

The answer is obvious: the rest of the world does not know; it does not understand! The propaganda coming out of the Western mass media outlets and indoctrination-spreading institutions is so thorough, so professional, that to most people all over the world everything related to Syria appears to be blurry, murky, and incredibly complex. President al-Assad is demonized on a daily basis. Heroic resistance is called the “regime’s brutal actions”, pro-western terror groups are described as “moderate opposition.”

In reality, Syria is suffering because it is refusing to kneel; because it is unwilling to prostitute itself; because it will never beg its torturers to stop, allowing them to grab everything above and under the surface.

The Empire never forgives disobedience. Its fundamentalist terror methods are the most brutal ever invented and implemented on Earth.

All around Syria, countries already lie in ashes. The Middle East hardly exists, anymore. And most of the Syrian people understand: it is perhaps better to die standing, than to live in shackles, on one’s knees, controlled by the kleptomaniacal Western colonialist states!

*

The more terrible the terror that the West is spreading worldwide in general and in this part of the world in particular, the more vicious its vitriolic propaganda is, the brainwashing indoctrination that flows incessantly from London, New York and Paris.

If one watches the BBC, there is no hint of objectivity left, anymore. The ranks are closed and the West is united in its final drive to discredit absolutely everything that is still fighting for survival, against its global terrorist exploits.

President al-Assad of Syria, the heroic Syrian army and the closest Syria’s allies – Russia and Iran – are being relentlessly demonized, as if it were them who began that monstrous war! And Hezbollah, which is fighting countless epic battles against the ISIS, sits firmly on the West’s terrorist list.

Everything seems to be twisted and perverted, upside down.

But what really should one expect from the expansionist hordes, from the bastions of imperialism? Or has the British (or French) propaganda been any different, when their colonialist countries have for centuries been grabbing and devastating countless foreign states and territories, slaughtering hundreds of millions of innocent people? Wasn’t anyone who resisted Western conquest always thoroughly ridiculed and demonized?

Countries like UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal and others, have centuries of experience in how to humiliate victims, how to justify their own heinous acts, how to brainwash their own populations and even some of their victims! And the United States, the direct product of Europe, its muscular offspring, is just using the same, only a bit more vulgar, propaganda tactics.

Nothing rational and objective can be expected from the people of Europe or North America, anymore. Except for a few of those insignificant protests and rebellious acts, the Western population is in a total slumber, indifferent towards the horrors that are being administered by its regime all over the globe. There is hardly any pressure to stop acts of terror against Syria. The only thing that seems to matter to Europeans is how to stop the flow of refugees from the devastated countries.

What a shame! What a thorough shame, people of Europe and North America! Your regime is murdering millions, in one country after another, and you are not even capable of recognizing what goes on… instead you are blaming the victims and those rushing to their rescue!

Now your biggest enemy is Russia. Because Russia (same as China) is clearly unwilling to dance to your fatal tune! Because Russia, for many decades, stood by almost all oppressed countries, and supported the de-colonization of the world, in all of its corners. Like China, Cuba and North Korea have always done.

Russia is now defending Syria. Not because it needs natural resources, not because it wants to plunder. It is doing so simply because it is right thing to do. It does it because if the world is abandoned fully to Western imperialism, there will actually soon be no world at all, or at least there will be no world worth inhabiting!

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“Our country is a socialist country. For us it’s more important to consider the benefits to the entire nation than to particular individuals. I have spent more than 50 years dedicating my life to education, which is the backbone of our country, especially now… Sometimes I feel like quitting my job and returning to teaching at Damascus University, but I know that I am still needed where I am now,” I was told by Dr. Farah Motlak, Deputy Minister of Education of the Syrian Arab Republic.

We met in Cairo, Egypt, at a regional conference. I asked him about the Western propaganda against his country. He replied, shaking his head:

“I am not even angry… I am just endlessly sad. The media attacks; the propaganda that is pouring from the West is clearly designed to destroy our country. But we have hope, and we will continue our struggle.”

The international meetings and conferences clearly show how divided even the Arab world is itself. Syria is a symbol. To some, it is a symbol of resilience, of heroism. To others, mainly to those who are funded and consequently conditioned by the West, it represents everything that is evil.

*

But Egypt itself (where I’m writing this essay), just three years after the pro-Western military coup, is in ruins. Economically it has become a basket case. It is completely devastated, socially.

Of course its destruction is on a “lighter scale”, compared to Iraq, Libya or Yemen. But it is still bad enough: during the coup in 2013, at least 1,000 but most likely 2,000 people were murdered by the junta, while tens of thousands were injured. An estimated 10,000 people are now in prisons all over the country; most of them in terrible conditions; many are being tortured, women prisoners are habitually raped.

“The counter revolution has triumphed,” explained Dr. Mohammed Shafik, a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement. “All opposition parties and organizations have been squashed. Thousands of revolutionaries have been imprisoned; hundreds executed by court orders or liquidated by the police… Neoliberalism is taking hold… people are suffering.”

But Western propaganda shows no appetite for criticizing the Egyptian military junta. It is, after all, essentially pro-Western; it is capitalist and to a great extent it is submissive to the Empire and to its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

As with almost all ‘client’ states of the West, Egypt will never be able to truly improve the lives of the majority of its citizens. The country is already stuck deeply and has been, for decades, in a perpetual social slumber. Those benefiting from the situation are the Western powers and their regional allies, as well as the servile Egyptian elites and the grotesquely colossal, omnipotent military.

If Syria were to surrender, the Egyptian scenario would be ‘the best’ it could hope for. But most likely, it would meet the terrible fate of Iraq or Libya.

*

62 Syrian soldiers were reported killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on the Syrian military base Deir el-Zour, on September 17, in Eastern Syria.

The planes destroyed the base housing soldiers that were involved in a battle with ISIS. Almost immediately, the ISIS took over the hill and the area, in what appeared to be a clearly coordinated operation between the West and the “Islamic State”, against the Syrian government forces.

A few days later, a humanitarian convoy was hit near the city of Aleppo. Without presenting any evidence, the West immediately pointed a finger at the Syrian government and Russia. But the Russian Ministry of Defense released images of a US predator drone operating in the area during the attack, and called for a thorough investigation.

The war goes on. The suffering of Syrian people continues.

There is one simple point that is being constantly overlooked by the West:

The legitimate government of Syria invited Russia, its close ally. It asked Moscow for help, to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups implanted by the West and its allies.

Nobody invited the West!

Or perhaps those groups that the West itself created and supported inside Syria invited it?

Both Syrian government forces and Russia are fighting brutal foreign invaders who are attempting to destroy one of the oldest nations on Earth and take control over the entire Middle East.

Syria is at the frontline of the battle against Western imperialism. And so is Russia. And also Iran, while China is joining!

The sacrifice made by the Syrian people is tremendous. But against all odds, the deadly advance of the imperialists may be stopped here, after all.

As I wrote earlier, the price may be terrible. Aleppo is turning into the Middle-Eastern Stalingrad. But the heroic Syrian nation has made its choice: it will fight brutal and barbaric invaders, as it fought the crusaders under the leadership of great Sultan Saladin.

The alternative would be slavery, something unacceptable for the Syrian people!

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Venezuela Faces Down Rebuke at UN, Possible New Sanctions

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By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis 

A group of 29 countries called for the Venezuelan government and opposition to engage in renewed national dialogue Thursday, amid calls for more US sanctions against the South American country.

Led by the right-wing government of Paraguay, the international group including the US and UK called on President Nicolas Maduro to “ensure the full respect of human rights, due process, the separation of powers and the consolidation of a representative democracy”.

Issued during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the statement also called for the Venezuelan government to ensure the organisation of a presidential recall referendum.

Venezuela condemned the declaration as “interventionist”, while its regional allies drew support outweighing the Paraguayan statement.

A call from Cuba for respect for state sovereignty drew the support of 88 countries.

Maduro described the outcome of the UNHRC meeting as a “great victory” for Venezuela.

“To their 29 votes, we got 88,” he said.

The fiery session Thursday was the latest in a series of jabs at Venezuela over the course of the meeting. When the UNHRC forum began on September 13, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein lashed out at Maduro’s government over “allegations of repression of opposition voices, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful protests”.

A major anti-government rally two days later drew thousands of opposition supporters to the streets of Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities, with no signs of widespread police crackdowns or repression. Another large rally is scheduled to take place on October 12.

More International Setbacks, Possible Sanctions

The controversy at the UNHRC followed weeks of bad news for Venezuela’s international relations. Earlier this month Venezuela was barred from its position as president of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, while Maduro’s hosting of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement failed to draw more than a handful of international allies.

Then on Wednesday, US lawmakers issued renewed condemnation, and calls for new sanctions on Caracas.

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the release of “political prisoners” in Venezuela.

“This resolution states in no uncertain terms that President Maduro’s shameful and rampant corruption in Venezuela must end,” said Florida Representative and former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Schultz herself faced allegations of corruption earlier this year, after whistle-blower website Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show Schultz and other leading party officials failed to maintain impartiality during the Democratic primaries.

CNE Head Targeted by Rubio

The day after the House issued its latest Venezuela resolution, long time anti-Venezuela campaigner Senator Marco Rubio called on President Barack Obama to authorise sanctions on government officials including the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.

Rubio claimed Lucena and other top officials have “committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses”.

Lucena herself has no oversight over Venezuela’s security forces, which have been accused of human rights abuses. Nor has she directly been involved in the arrest of opposition political figures such as Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2015 after a Venezuelan court found him guilty of inciting a wave of deadly violence.

As head of the CNE, Lucena has been criticised by opposition supporters, who say her organisation has dragged its feet on preparing for a presidential recall referendum, which could lead to Maduro being forced from power early. CNE officials have responded to the complaints by arguing the opposition itself has slowed the referendum by allegedly including bogus signatures in a preliminary petition that was required to prompt a recall vote.

Last week, the CNE confirmed the referendum would not be possible until next year, dashing opposition hopes of forcing new elections. The timing of the referendum is significant: if it takes place before January 10, 2017, Maduro could be forced from office, and snap elections held. If the referendum is held after this cut off point, Maduro will simply be replaced by his vice-president for the rest of the normal presidential term.

The CNE’s handling of the referendum has also been criticised by the US, prompting backlash from the Maduro administration.

In a bid to ease tensions, the US and Venezuela are expected to hold new diplomatic talks in the coming weeks.

According to a report from the Associated Press this week, the talks will include Venezuelan officials and a US Department of State official. The official was named as Thomas Shannon, the state department’s current undersecretary of state for political affairs.

No further details of the meeting have been released, though another recent meeting between Venezuelan officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focused on the detention of Joshua Holt.

A US national, Holt was detained by the Venezuelan military in June, under allegations of stockpiling firearms in the home of his wife in Venezuela. Holt’s relatives have denied the allegations.

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Syria: War Propaganda in the “Alternative News”

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War Propaganda in the “Alternative News”: PR Campaign in Support of The Pro-Al Qaeda “White Helmets” in Syria

By Richard Hugus | Global Research

Are anarchists carrying water for Uncle Sam? SubMedia, a website that publishes “anarchist news and resistance updates” in video form, is now featuring a 5 minute video, What Is Mutual Aid?” Toward the end of the video the narrator tells us that “glimpses of the anarchist ideal of mutual aid can be seen in . . . the bravery of the White Helmets of Aleppo who risk their lives to pull children from the collapsed ruins of buildings hit by Assad’s barrel bombs.” Really? This is hard to square with reporting from journalists like Vanessa Beeley, who has researched the White Helmets on the ground in Syria, and found that most people there have never heard of them, that they are a creation of western propaganda.

Vanessa Beeley reports that “with over $60 million in their back pocket courtesy of USAID, the UK Foreign Office and various EU nations like the Netherlands, this group is possibly one of the most feted and funded entities within the west’s anti-Syrian NGO complex, a pivotal part of the clandestine shadow state building enterprise inside of Syria. Like many other ‘NGOs’, the White Helmets have been deployed by the west to derail the Syrian state, first by undermining existing civic structures and by disseminating staged PR to facilitate regime change propaganda, through western and Gulf state media outlets.”

Felicity Artbuthnot in another recent article quotes the Ron Paul Institute as saying: ”We have demonstrated that the White Helmets are an integral part of the propaganda vanguard that ensures obscurantism of fact and propagation of Human Rights fiction that elicits the well-intentioned and self righteous response from a very cleverly duped public. A priority for these NGOs is to keep pushing the No Fly Zone scenario which has already been seen to have disastrous implications for innocent civilians in Libya, for example.”

SubMedia has not responded to a query as to whether it was simply mistaken in promoting the White Helmets, nor has it edited the video. As things now stand, it appears SubMedia is part of an effort to promote these poseurs as humanitarians, coincidentally in sync with that much larger other video outlet, Netflix, who has just rolled out an exclusive documentary promoting the White Helmets as heroes. According to Rick Sterling, the group Code Pink actually put out a press release promoting the Netflix movie.

Where there are PR campaigns, there are suddenly awards. According to Sterling,

“on 22 September 2016 it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award, the so called ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, is being given to the US/UK created White Helmets ‘for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.’ Sterling continues: “

The Right Livelihood organizers may come to regret their selection of the White Helmets because the group is not who they claim to be. In fact, the White Helmets are largely a propaganda tool promoting western intervention against Syria. Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the ‘White Helmets’ only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition.”

One must beware of radicals sneaking a bit of poison into an otherwise good message. The famous anarchist Noam Chomsky decried the NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, but agreed with the major premise of that attack, which was that Slobodan Milosevic was a brutal dictator who had to be stopped. This went a long way to defusing an antiwar effort leading up to the NATO bombing campaign. Likewise, SubMedia has lots of good information on anarchist principles, but inserts talking points straight out of the US State Department, like the one about “Assad’s barrel bombs.” We are led down a moral road, only to be confused.

In another SubMedia video, Requiem for Syria, an anonymous narrator called “Stimulator” would have us believe that an anarchist revolution is struggling to be born in Syria, on a par with that in 1930′s Spain, and that Bashar al-Assad is responsible for destroying that revolution. According to Stimulator, “leftists believe that Assad has been targeted for regime change by the United Snakes and its allies and that Syria is being protected by staunchly anti-imperialist homies, Russia and Iran. But putting aside the fact that Russia and Iran are both gangsta imperialist states in their own right who oppress the fuck out of their own citizens, there’s an even more obvious flaw in this logic — the fact that the United States isn’t trying to overthrow Assad at all. The real threat to Assad’s fascist fucking regime has come from Syrians themselves, who, after growing sick and motherfucking tired of having their peaceful protests bombed and machine-gunned, launched a popular fucking uprising, and it’s racist as fuck to ignore that.”

Hidden amid the hip language is another US State Department talking point — that the war in Syria was started by Assad attacking his own people. SubMedia is attempting to deny the fact that Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, and NATO are indeed seeking regime change and have demonized Assad in order to bring that about. Stimulator is in perfect agreement with the main premise of the aggressors: Assad is a brutal dictator, killing legitimate protestors trying to free themselves from his oppression. According to Stimulator, “there’s only one person who can end this civil war in Syria – I’m talking about Syria’s greasy, sunken-eyed, goose-necked dictator himself, Bashar al-Assad.”  We are led to believe that one man is the sole cause of this country’s problems. We heard the same with Milosevic, Saddam, and Gaddafi.

Stimulator goes on to interview Robin Yassin-Kassab, British author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, who agrees with Stimulator that the left has been duped into believing “that this is a regime change plot directed by the United States against the glorious resistance regime in Syria, and the facts don’t bear that out at all.” The people of Syria are in revolt, he claims, and Assad is trying to put down the revolt. Yassin-Kassab asserts, without evidence, that “women have been subjected to a mass rape campaign which the regime organized.” This was a propaganda talking point in the attack on Libya, and, for that matter, Yugoslavia.

People living outside Syria lack first-hand knowledge, but a number of sources in Syria have said that Assad actually has the support of the majority of the people there. Lily Martin writes that

“as an eye witness to the entire war in Syria, from March 2011 to present, I can state this was no revolution. I am an American citizen living permanently in Syria, which is my husband’s birthplace. I have been here 24 years. A real revolution would have the support of the people, inside Syria, not Syrians living in Paris and London for the past 40 years. To have a real grassroots uprising, you need the support of the people living inside Syria, who would share your views. If it had been a real uprising/revolution, the whole process could have taken 3-6 months, because the Army would have followed the will of the people, given the fact the Syrian Army is made up of Syrians of all ethnic and religious sects. The Syrian Army is a true representative of the Syrian population. If the population wanted the goals stated by the ‘protesters’, which was to establish Islamic law in Syria, and to abolish the current secular government, the Army would have eventually followed along, expressing the will of the people.”

Lily Martin and Vanessa Beeley are, finally, more credible than the anonymous figures at SubMedia. SubMedia is also, like Chomsky, silent about Israeli and US government partnership in the September 11, 2001 attacks, when such perceptive radicals as these should certainly know better. It is not above the practitioners of deception to create an opposition that says a lot of the right things, but does the essential dirty work. Indeed, this is an important part of their trade. The avalanche of lies provided in the mainstream media can be organized by run-of-the-mill propagandists. The real propagandists are the ones who cultivate people who actually look like they’re on our side.

If there ever was a revolution in Syria, it was quickly overwhelmed by Zionist manipulation of the United States into destroying yet another country on the list of nations that threaten Israel, and, for good measure, getting the US and Russia to destroy each other so that Israel will emerge as the world’s new superpower, presiding over the ashes. Such is the insanity of current world events.

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1948 Palestinian party subject to campaign of arrests, political repression

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

The Israeli state has launched a major campaign of arrests and political persecution against activists of the National Democratic Assembly or Balad, the political party of Palestinians in ’48 Palestine. The party is represented in the Knesset as part of the Joint List, where its representatives, including Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basil Ghattas, have been repeatedly targeted for their statements recognizing their own Palestinian identity and their support for the Palestinian liberation struggle. Indeed, today, Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit has approved the police to interrogate Zoabi and Zahalka on the ongoing arrests, regarding “campaign finance issues.”

zoabi-zahalka

In the past two weeks, dozens of activists and leaders in the party have been arrested in allegations that were initially trumpeted as related to “corruption,” but are in fact instead attempts to label the party as receiving “improper foreign funding.” Thus, rather than Balad/NDA leaders being accused of stealing money from the party or from the Palestinian people, they are being accused by the Israeli state of bringing money from international and Arab supporters to Palestine to support the Palestinian people. Exact allegations, however, have not been released and are “secret,” withheld from the public and the detainees, reported Al Jazeera. The party issued a statement in which it “unequivocally denies all allegations and calls for the immediate release of all activists.”

The party and other Palestinian activists in ’48 have warned of this as an ongoing attempt to criminalize Palestinian political activity among Palestinian citizens of Israel. Broad protests have taken place throughout Palestine ’48 and political forces throughout the Palestinian population, including Abnaa al-Balad, Hadash and the Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee have denounced the arrest campaign, calling for Palestinian unity against repression.

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On 18 September, the homes of party leaders were raided by Israeli police and 20 members and leaders of the party were arrested. Dozens have been released, with some being ordered to house arrest, forbidden from leaving their homes and in some cases from internet usage. Party general secretary Awad Abdel Fattah was released from prison to house arrest Wednesday, 28 September, as were Kayed Attiyah Awni, Ezzedine Badran and Shadi Awad. Deputy General Secretary Yousef Tatour was also released after being detained one day before. Over 35 leaders and activists have been arrested in total in the past weeks, with the majority released. Murad Haddad, member of the municipal council of Shafa ‘Amr and the party’s central committee, saw his detention extended until Wednesday inn a Haifa magistrate’s court. Several lawyers have also been arrested and released, including Eyad Khalayleh, Haneen Ighbarieh, Mohammed Tarabeh and Alaa Mahajna.

Balad labeled the move to interrogate Zahalka and Zoabi as “an escalation in the rabid political persecution against the Assembly and a provocative attempt to smear the reputation of the party….[this] is retaliatory political action that cmes after police have failed to intimidate the members and cadres of the party over the last two weeks.”

The Abnaa al-Balad movement noted in its statement on the repression that “these despicable repressive campaigns have been a systematic practice against our struggling people throughout their history since the beginning of the occupation of Palestine in 1948. We have seen the prosecution of all of the movements and activist national political currents among our people since the Al-Ard movement.”

Indeed, political persecution of the political activity of Palestinians in ’48 is nothing new; for the first twenty years of Israeli occupation, Palestinians lived under martial law and were prohibited from forming political parties; the Al-Ard movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel was prohibited in 1964. The movement of Palestinians in ’48 produced a series of movements, including the protest movement against land confiscation that sparked national protests and general strikes in 1976; after the killing of six Palestinian protesters, 30 March became known as Land Day. Palestinians from ’48 have always been imprisoned alongside fellow Palestinians in Israeli jails; today, there are over 100 Palestinian political prisoners holding Israeli citizenship, including Lena Jarbouni, Raed Salah, Ameer Makhoul and Said Nafa.

In late 2015, the Northern Islamic Movement, a large Islamic political and social organization among Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, was banned by the Israeli state following its extensive campaigns against repression and limitation of access to Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Zahalka labeled the move at the time a declaration of war against the Palestinian population. Dozens of social organizations were raided and served with orders for their closure, including kindergartens, clinics, mosques and a sports league.

Salah is currently serving a 9-month prison term for “incitement” for delivering speeches against Israeli action at Al-Aqsa Mosque. “Incitement” is the same charge currently being used against Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, also holding Israeli citizenship; Tatour has spent 11 months in prison and then house arrest and is threatened with up to eight years in prison for posting her poetry on YouTube. Tatour’s case has received international support from literary organizations and prominent writers and poets.

Nafa, a former member of the Knesset, is imprisoned for visiting Syria, an “enemy state”  and meeting there with exiled Palestinians and Palestinian political parties; interrogation and arrest of Palestinians for visiting Lebanon, Syria or meeting Palestinian political parties labeled “prohibited organizations” are not uncommon.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to over 80 discriminatory laws, including a number of laws specifically targeting Knesset members.  These include new laws allowing the expulsion of members if 3/4 of the existing members agree; as well the suspension of members based on majority vote, carried out against Balad MKs earlier in the year, for meeting with the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers.

Balad advocates for “a state for all its citizens” and participates in the Joint List, a coalition of mostly Palestinian parties in ’48 formed after a new threshhold law would see most of the Palestinian parties excluded from the Knesset. However, participating in the Knesset is itself highly controversial among Palestinians in ’48 Palestine, and numerous Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in a boycott of Knesset elections. Opponents of Knesset participation emphasize that the Knesset itself is an institution that is fundamentally racist and Zionist and based on the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians. Organizations including the now-banned Islamic Movement in the North and Abnaa el-Balad  emphasize that the participation of Palestinians in the parliament, where they are subject to racist laws and repression, is used to beautify the image of Israel internationally and claim that it is “democratic” for all of its citizens.

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Afghanistan: UN mission condemns killing of at least 15 civilians in airstrike

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UN News Centre

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has condemned the killing of at least 15 civilian men and the injuring of at least 13 others, including at least one boy, in an airstrike targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) conducted yesterday in the country’s eastern district of Achin.

In a press statement, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) reiterated the need for all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law.

“UNAMA calls on the Government and international military forces to launch a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident,” the mission said.

In the early morning of 28 September, an international military forces unmanned aerial vehicle conducted an airstrike, reportedly targeting members of ISIL/Da’esh, which struck a civilian home, killing the 15 civilians, according to UNAMA.

The civilians had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal elder from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and were reportedly sleeping in a guesthouse of the elder when the airstrike occurred. Civilian victims of the strike included students and a teacher, as well as members of families considered to be pro-Government. Government sources report that ISIL/Da’esh personnel also died in the attack, UNAMA said.

The mission highlighted that in a press release issued yesterday, United States Force-Afghanistan acknowledged conducting the airstrike, but refrained from elaborating further, indicating that they “are still reviewing all materials related to the strike.”

UNAMA also expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the incident and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Afghanistan has been in protracted conflict for almost 35 years, which, in addition to being prone to recurrent natural disasters, has seriously hampered poverty reduction and development, strained the fabric of society and depleted the country’s coping mechanisms.

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‘If Germany is Really Independent, It Must Close Ramstein’

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Wolfgang Jung, a retired German teacher from Kaiserslautern, Germany, has done everything to try to get the government to close Ramstein Airbase.

In April, he filed a lawsuit in a federal court, saying that the deadly drone strikes using the base were a violation of international law.

His case has been dismissed, but he hasn’t lost hope.

Interviewed by Sputnik Deutschland, the spritely 88-year-old explained that his case, filed in April at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, had been dismissed, because his claim supposedly ‘did not concern him personally’.

“I filed a lawsuit against the use of the Ramstein Airbase, which violates international law and the German constitution,” the retired teacher said. He added that over the course of four years, Ramstein has become central to the US drone war in Afghanistan.

“My case was dismissed. It was not even considered. I was simply denied the right to bring my suit,” Jung noted, explaining that he was told that he “personally was not affected by the military drones,” and therefore “cannot sue.”

Frustrated by the result, the retiree-turned-activist suggested that “according to the logic of the court, German citizens do not have the right to file a lawsuit against actions that are illegal under international law originating from US military bases on German territory.”

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Kabul heading for night of the long knives

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By M K Bhadrakumar 

There is, understandably, a degree of triumphalism in Delhi that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lost no time to follow India’s footfalls and relay to the SAARC that he too cannot attend the planned summit of the grouping in Islamabad in November. But his explanation will raise eyebrows.

Ghani explained that the security situation in his country is acute. Fair enough. But then, he went on to add that that he will be “fully engaged” due to his “responsibilities as the Commander in Chief”. Ghani at least seems certain that he will continue to be the C-in-C six weeks hence. That is, perhaps, the only ray of hope at the present juncture when political uncertainties loom large.

The 2-year term of the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) headed by Ghani is expiring today. From tomorrow, Afghanistan enters unchartered waters. The compromise deal on co-habitation between Ghani and the present Chief Executive Officer Abdullah, which was literally imposed on them by the US Secretary of State John Kerry two years ago, envisaged that Afghanistan would make political transition to a parliamentary system latest by today on the basis of a new constitution and electoral laws.

But with Ghani and Abdullah caught in the cobweb of factional politics, NUG got paralysed and could not fulfil the expectations placed on it during its 2-year life span. Meanwhile, elections have not been held for the Afghan parliament either, despite its term ending over a year ago. With the executive and the legislative body lacking legitimacy, a constitutional deadlock arises.

What happens now? When the US state department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the fate of the NUG and whether Obama administration (which is entering lame duck phase) would undertake any further mediatory mission on a constitutional transition, he was evasive, saying,

  • I’m not going to predict what role (US will play), except to say that we’re – we remain committed to working with the Afghan Government and leadership in trying to continue along the reform agenda that they’re working on, but also, as you note, to ensure the smooth democratic transition to the next government.

The US seems to look away from the legitimacy question that hangs above the Ghani government beyond today and prefer to cast its eye on the horizon toward a “smooth democratic transition to the next government”. But, how will the transition be possible? (See the RSIS commentary The Coming Political Crisis in Afghanistan.)

But, by a curious coincidence, today has also been fixed as the date for the formal signing of Ghani’s peace deal with the famous Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (‘Butcher of Kabul’) at a ceremony in Kabul. Hekmatyar himself will participate in the ceremony via a video conference from his undisclosed location in Pakistan.

Hekmatyar is not taking chances – nor his Pakistani mentors. After all, you only live once and there is no knowing whether Hekmatyar will be physically safe in Kabul, where his sworn Tajik enemies from Panjshir and various other assorted old Mujahideen war horses who would have old scores to settle with him, are present.

For a start, it will be interesting to see what brave face Abdullah puts on the Ghani-Hekmatyar deal. He is between the rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he knows the deal is intended to get political space for Ghani who lacks a power base of his own. Also, he will be savvy enough to know that Hekmatyar’s entry, a Mujahideen leader who was more than a match for Ahmed Shah Massoud himself in many, is bound to change the Afghan calculus radically and his own prospects of realising his overvaulting presidential ambitions recede significantly.

On the other hand, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai is waiting in the wings to be invited by any Loya Jirga that may be convened, to head the interim government. Abdullah seems to have weighed his options and decided that it is tactically prudent to allow the NUG to limp along for a while, given his congruence of interests with Ghani (as well as with Uncle Sam) to somehow keep Karzai out in the cold.

However, the known unknown is going to be Hekmatyar’s role in the power structure. It is all very well to say his group Hezb-i-Islami will be allowed to function as a political party and the US and UN are preparing to delist him as a dangerous terrorist. But politics, for Hekmatyar, is about power.

And it is improbable he can be kept waiting in a ‘safe house’ in Pakistan for long. He will insist that his due place of habitation is the presidential palace in Kabul; at the very least, he will expect a position that is on par with Abdullah’s (who was after all only Massoud’s English-language interpreter when he himself was the iconic figure of the Afghan jihad who was lionised by both Pakistan and the US.)

To be sure, Hekmatyar’s re-entry will evoke strong feelings among Afghans who see him as an agent of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. There have been demonstrations in Kabul against Ghani’s Faustian deal with him. Afghans have not forgotten the savagery with which Hekmatyar pursued power.

The widely-held belief among Afghans is that Hekmatyar killed more Afghan Mujahideen than he cared to kill Soviet troops. He incessantly lobbed rockets into Kabul City from the surrounding mountain tops and systematically reduced the capital to rubble in his bitter struggle for power with Massoud in the early nineties after the Mujahideen takeover. ((See an excellent piece by Terry Glavin at the National Post, The rehabilitation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Butcher of Kabul.)

How could the Mujahideen forget that Hekmatyar waded through a river of Afghan blood? The Afghans will expect an answer to the big question: If Hekmatyar is okay, why not the Taliban, too?

The thought seems to have occurred to Karzai already, who remarked two days ago that if the Taliban control territory in Afghanistan, he doesn’t see anything incongruous because it is, after all, their country, too.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Kabul heading for night of the long knives


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