Archive | December 10th, 2016

Block Creation of Neo-McCarthyite Committee

NOVANEWS

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The Intelligence Authorization Act includes a provision that creates a Committee to counter supposed Russian “media manipulation,” “disinformation,” “assassinations,” and other covert measures in the United States. The Committee’s mandate is so broad — in short, anything the President tells them to do — that any current or future president could easily (and, if desired, secretly) use the Committee to target political enemies, journalists, and activists.

Tell your Senators to vote no.

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India Failed in Diverting Attention from Kashmir

NOVANEWS

Image result for Kashmir INDIA CARTOON

By Sajjad Shaukat

Although by arranging various false flag operations like the attacks on Indian Parliament in

January 12, 2001, in Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, at Indian Air Force Base in

Pathankot on January 2, 2016 etc., India succeeded in deflecting attention of the world from the

uprising in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) due to the US-led West’s double standard, yet

Indian rulers have failed in diverting the attention of the international community from the

drastic situation of Kashmir in the aftermath of the Uri base assault which was also managed by

the Indian intelligence agencies, especially RAW.

It is notable that on July 19, 2013, the Indian former home ministry and ex-investigating officer

Satish Verma disclosed that terror attacks in Mumbai in November 26, 2008 and assault on

Indian Parliament in January 12, 2001 were carried out by the Indian government to strengthen

anti-terrorism laws.

However, continuing false flag operations, on Setember18, this year, India staged the drama of

the terror attack in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) at a military base in Uri, close to the Line

of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.

After the Uri episode, without any investigation, India’s top civil and military officials, including

their media started propaganda against Pakistan by accusing that the militants who targeted the

Uri base came from Pakistan’s side of Azad Kashmir and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba controlled

by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved in it. Under the mask of the Uri

base attack, India created war-hysteria against Pakistan and started mobilization of troops near

the LoC, while claiming surgical strikes on the Azad Kashmir.

But, the myth of Indian surgical strikes was exposed, when in a statement, DG of Pakistan’s the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lt. Gen, Asim Saleem Bajwa said, “The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects. This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross border fire as surgical strike is a fabrication of truth.” He repeatedly stated that Pakistani troops have been giving equal response to Indian unprovoked firing across the LoC.

Differences also arose between the Indian civil and military leadership—as to how cover the

falsehood. In this regard, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and country’s Army Chief Gen.

Dalbir Singh had decided to prepare a ‘fake video’ of surgical strikes so as to pacify the Indian

public, media and the opposition parties.

In fact, since July 8, 2016 against the martyrdom of the young Kashmir leader Burhan Wani by

the Indian security forces in the Indian Held Kashmir in wake of continued sieges and prolonged

curfew, Indian forces have martyred more than 120 innocent persons who have been protesting

against the martyrdom of Burhan Wani.

With the acceleration of war of liberation and Indian state terrorism in the Indian controlled

Kashmir, pressure on the Indian government led by BJP has been mounting both domestically

and internationally.

In this respect, A. S. Dulat, former chief of India’s spy agency RAW, published in the magazine,

‘The Wire’ on August 27, 2016 said “Pakistan’s role is not the only catalyst for the crisis, talks about the need for the Indian government to start talking to separatist leaders in the Hurriyat Conference, Pakistan, and other important political players.” His condemnation of the Modi

government for not talking to Hurriyat and for its high handedness in IOK is spot on. He rightly

concludes that the Kashmiri uprising is 100% indigenous.

While, in response to the letter of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, on

August 19, 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the killings of the Kashmiris in

Indian-held Kashmir, and urged India and Pakistan to settle Kashmir and other issues through

dialogue by offering his “good offices”.

Meanwhile, on September 21, 2016, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sharif emphatically highlighted

Kashmir situation during the annual session of the UN General Assembly. In this context, he

said, “Kashmiris had to face barbarism from India, which made Burhan Wani, the face of freedom movement…Pakistan fully supports the demand of the Kashmiri people for self-determination, as promised by several Security Council resolutions. Their struggle is a legitimate one for liberation from alien occupation.”

During his visit to Pakistan, in the joint press conference with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on

November 17, 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged for an immediate resolution

of the Kashmir dispute and stated that “the escalating tensions on the Pakistan-India border and

the atrocities in Kashmir cannot be ignored. He elaborated, “The Turkish government and the

Turkish nation stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri people.”

Earlier, the visiting Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Ayad

Ameen Madani in Islamabad expressed grave concern over extra-judicial killings of people in

the Indian-occupied Kashmir and added, “OIC will support Pakistan on Kashmir issue”.

Besides, Western politicians and media have also taken serious notice of the deteriorating

situation of Kashmir. For instance, the Italian Minister for Defence, Mrs. Roberta Pinotti who

visited Pakistan said September 19, this year that her country “opposes use of force and lethal

weapons against peaceful protestors in Kashmir and stated that it cannot be allowed to go on.”

She further said that Italy will apprise the international community about what is going on in

Indian held Kashmir.

Renowned TV channels and newspapers are giving appropriate coverage to the ongoing uprising

in Kashmir, while pointing out Indian atrocities. For example, with the title, “India’s crackdown

in Kashmir: is this the world’s first mass blinding?”, The Guardian wrote on November 8, 2016, “The Long Read: A bloody summer of protest in Kashmir has been met with a ruthless response from Indian security forces, who fired hundreds of thousands of metal pellets into crowds of civilians, leaving hundreds blinded.”

Notably, in frustration, during the sixth Heart of Asia Conference which was held in the Indian

city of Amritsar on December 3 and 4, this year, the Indian government did not allow the

Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to hold a scheduled

press conference. In sheer violation of diplomatic norms, the adviser was also barred from

leaving the hotel premises and the media persons were not allowed to meet him in the hotel. The

Indian authorities also stopped Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit to enter the

Media Centre set up at the conference venue.

Nevertheless, Kashmir dispute has been internationalized, while India has failed in diverting

world’s attention from the present situation of Kashmir.

 

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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Calming the Mainstream Media’s Trump-China Hysteria

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Two huge stories have dominated the media over the past week, and they’re that Trump took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s leader and that he fired off some unfriendly Tweets directed against China.

Both of these stories obviously intersect by telling the world a lot about what the future of American-Chinese relations might entail under the incoming Trump Administration, but we need to be careful not to let the MSM lead us astray with disinformation and negatively intentioned speculation.

There’s nothing wrong with prognosticating about important topics such as how the US will behave towards China under Trump, but it’s another to outright lie and either directly say or misleadingly infer that Trump was the one who called Taiwan’s leader. He didn’t, he just accepted a phone call from her, though it was the first time since the US recognized the One China policy in 1979 that the President-elect himself did this instead of an aide. This doesn’t mean that Trump is departing from that policy, but just that he won’t shy away from playing the Taiwan card in reaching grander and more holistic deals with China in the future.

And herein lies the connection to the second China-related scandal, which were Trump’s tweets about how China manipulates its currency, heavily taxes American products coming into the country, and is building military structures in the South China Sea. Trump obviously wants to cut deals on all three of these main issues, and he’s spoken about them before on the campaign trail. The MSM, however, is trying to play this all off as though it’s a bunch of recurring gaffes and suggesting that Trump doesn’t have the temperament to be President. US-Chinese relations will definitely see some turbulence in the future as both sides try to reach deals with the other and understandably fall out at times when they don’t get what they want, but overall there probably won’t be any fundamental changes in the existing Obama-inherited relationship, both for better – in terms of existing trade arrangements – and worse – like American asymmetrical economic and South China Sea proxy aggression.

Trump’s not this inexperienced loose cannon that the MSM maliciously tries to paint him as, but he’s also not some global savior who will bring peace to the world like some misguided alternative media make him out to be. Trump always has been and always will be defined by two words – “America First”.

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India’s Demonetization Project

NOVANEWS

Economic Destabilization of an Entire Country, “A Monumental Management Failure”

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It is early winter and a thick, grimy fog, black and white tinged with grey, hangs over Delhi much of the day. Morning visibility is bad, clears up a bit with a dull sun in the afternoon, before darkness descends again on the city.

A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his demonetisation policy, the gloomy weather in the national capital describes quite well the mood of the people here. Sullen but not angry, worried but not yet panicked, uneasy about the future but focused for the present on solving daily problems.

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And yet somewhere deep down there is a growing feeling that we are witnessing the twilight of the Indian Republic – at least as we have known it for over six decades- a sovereign, federal, democratic nation, which with all its flaws, stumbles along intact. Few fully understand the real implications of 86% of the Indian currency disappearing overnight but there is foreboding it is a sign of many more drastic events to come.

If something as fundamental as money in a system can be so casually overturned what guarantee is there that you or your family will be safe tomorrow? Why should any of India’s various regions and states take orders from Delhi and its upstart Sultan of Sophistry anymore?

With every passing day though the disaster wrought on the economy and lives of ordinary citizens by demonetisation is becoming starkly apparent. Industries, trade, farming operations and daily consumption of essential goods are collapsing due to the lack of sufficient cash to carry out the simplest of transactions.

The queues at the banks are only getting longer and more frustrating with a surge in violent incidents as the initial support for the government’s self-proclaimed ‘war on black money’ wears thin. After all it is not the rich and powerful who are lining up day after day to exchange their old notes or try and withdraw a paltry 2000 Rupees from the few ATMs that work here and there.

In the meanwhile, the elderly and weak die in the wait like only they can, tired and breathless at the heartlessness of it all. How much more suffering is in store and how many needless lives lost to this manmade disaster – nobody really knows.

There is very little talk now from the government of any windfall gains to state revenues due to demonetisation, as almost all the ‘black cash’ around finds its way back into the banking system. There are zero measures to tackle the far larger problem of ‘black wealth’, in the form of gold, property, foreign accounts revealing the fundamentally dubious nature of this ‘war on corruption’.

A desperate regime aids this conversion with marginally stiffer penalties on unaccounted money coming into the banks,making the current crusade just a continuation of previous voluntary disclosure schemes for tax evaders. Calculations made by respectable research institutions show the costs to the Indian economy of demonetisation will far exceed any benefits it brings.

The rhetoric has  instead already turned to the cuckoo world of a ‘cashless economy’, where everyone will live happily tied to a digital grid, run by the government hand in glove with banks, payment gateways, e-commerce companies and other peddlers of seductive software. All you need is a secure identity, the Aadhar card, the number imprinted on which will open or close doors depending on your credit rating. (If Aadhaar cards get fabricated on a large scale- as they are perhaps already- the powers that be will insist on a special stamp with indelible ink on your forehead to certify you are allowed to exist on this planet!)

It would all be very laughable if not for the cruel implications in a country where a majority still struggle to eat, cannot read or write and survive on a daily basis without power or water. It is only a generation ago that the poor learnt to negotiate cash – itself a complicated concept- and here they are being told to abruptly go digital. It is as if the Earth opened up one morning and swallowed them wholesale.

Along with the poor the real target of demonetisation are thousands of small and medium businesses which thrive only on cash transactions and underpin Indian democracy itself through both their sheer diversity and ability to earn and live independent of state support. Once they are decimated it will be that much easier to establish total control over the Indian economy by a handful of large corporate monopolies, which will also facilitate political dictatorship.

Sure, informal enterprises avoid giving tax but then what exactly will the Indian state give them in return if they become compliant – good schools, infrastructure, quality health care, pensions? Why should anyone pay tax to a government that seems to use these revenues to fatten the bank accounts of politicians, bureaucrats and crony capitalists?

The educated, urbanclasses are the only ones cheering Modi on right now as they see in the digital economy a consolidation of their traditional power – after all feudalism was also a ‘cashless’ system – not even a signature was required to get things done. A mere wave of the hand was enough to get orders or even orderlies executed in Ram Rajya. ‘E-Brahmanism’ would be indeed be a more appropriate way to describe a society without any physical cash!

Is it really possible to impose such a ‘Uniform Commercial Code’ on such a vast and heterogenous economy like India without sparking a revolt? Isn’t the Modi regime and the cabal of corporates playing with fire by pushing this ‘Big Bang’ reform?

When former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described demonetisation as a ‘monumental management failure’ he was essentially warning Modi not to bite more than he can chew. He should know, having been the architect of the original ‘Big Bang’ of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation over two decades ago. It was the tectonic forces he unleased on the Indian economy and society that gave impetus to Hindutva, helped the BJP rise to power and the phenomenon of Narendra Modi himself – all of which swallowed up the Congress party itself.

Of course there will be blowback and long after India recovers from the dire consequences of Narendra Modi’s monetary adventure, future historians will actually wonder what led a ruler, at the peak of his power, to attempt harakiri in this manner?  For, it is not difficult really to see what has happened – the man is falling in front of our eyes on his own sword of hubris – the brash weapon that has humbled many a self-styled emperor before him.

Trying to understand the motives many have dubbed Narendra Modi a new Mohammad bin Tughlaq, the 14th Century ruler of Delhi, whose kingdom collapsed due to foolish experiments with new and poorly minted currency. There is some truth to this of course,  as grandiose visions that lack of attention to detail and hasty schemes marred by low quality of implementation have indeed been his hallmark so far.

His harsher critics have compared Modi to the notorious Mir Jafar, who due to greed and ambition shook hands with the wily East India Company  only to lose both arm and country.

Modi, an ordinary pracharak who rose to became Prime Minister, a chaiwallah who rubs shoulders with corporate bigwigs, does represent Mir Jafar’s burning quest for power at any cost.

The collective herding of 1.2 billion people into a ‘cashless economy’ is also nothing less than the return of Company Raj with loss of control over lives and livelihood for the Indian people. Mastercard, Visa, Facebook, Google, Paytm are the new Robert Clives of our times, manipulating intrigues in the Nawab’s palace to take over control.

There is even a Jagat Seth around, Mir Jafar’s financier, in the form of none other than Mukesh Ambani, whose business interests are poised to benefit most from the nature and timing of the demonetisation policy. Launching ‘Jio Money’, a payment gateway venture, in the first week of December, Ambani praised demonetisation in the same vein as a weapons dealer extolling the merits of war.

Coming back to Modi and the parallels with Tughlaq and Mir Jafar, they do indicate the way he thinks and behaves but do not fully capture what he is all about. In order to really get a more accurate picture of the man, there are two other essential ingredients that need to be added. One is the persona of a small town hustler of whom our Dear Leader has more than a heavy dose of and which is what lends him colour and explains his widespread popularity.

The dandy man in dark glasses, dressed in a white suit with flower sticking out his pocket, ambushing foreign Heads of State for a hug or posing like a tourist for selfies around ancient monuments – that is what endears him to the masses. All embellished by the legend that he is someone from humble origins who has made it big – something every poor man and woman admires and dreams of.

The other component of his character and one that makes him immensely dangerous though, is that ofamegalomaniac with the mind of a shrewd criminal. Nothing less that a wannabe Godfather. Someone, who is willing to do or say anything to get his way. With no loyalty to anyone except himself and his immediate benefactors – in the current case the corporate backers who financed his climb to power.

This makes him frightening to even those who helped him get where he has reached today – a man untethered to any principle, person or even the political party he leads. Remember Haren Pandya? The only consultation Modi seems to have done before embarking on the drastic experiment of ‘notebandi’ was perhaps in front of a mirror with himself – for it turns out none of the senior leaders of the BJP or even the RSS had a clue as to what he was upto- though all of them are lining up to praise his ‘brilliant’ policy out of fear today.

The reason why Modi is able to ride roughshod over his own party stalwarts is because he has cultivated a financial and popular support outside the traditional base of the organisation. If small and medium traders disappear with the digital economy, so be it – the future belongs to big corporations anyway. If the extreme Hindu right is upset with him how does it really matter when hecan win elections with the support of corporate financed propaganda?

Nothing else – but this understanding of Modi as a mix of Tughlaq, Mir Jafar, petty hustler and gangster –explains the indifference to consequences with which the entire demonetisation exercise was thought up and implemented. Nothing else explains also the arrogance that Modi continues to display about his own abilities as a ‘visionary’ and the complete lack of remorse for the immense hardships he has subjected the Indian population to.

What we have got from the Prime Minister so far in response to criticism or complaint is an anecdote about a beggar somewhere with a swipe card machine. Is this supposed to be the new aspirational model for the country – jobless citizens asking for doles in digital currency?

And of course, that casual ‘Robin Hood’ statement too, urging poorer citizens with Jan Dhan accounts not to return any of the unaccounted cash deposited in their names by those trying to convert their black money into white.

Wow! Did he really mean that? If he did, then good for him! I am just waiting for the day the masses figure out that all ‘white money’ in this country is only so because successive regimes have helped ‘whitewash’ it through convenient laws. When that finally happens – taking cue from Modi’s statement about redistributing wealth –  there will not be a single Ambani or Adani shop left anywhere in the country!

It is clear, that even by the gross standards of the Indian elite’s historical disdain for the fate of the nation’s marginalized Narendra Modi’s entire discourse around the impact of his demonetisation policy is obscene beyond belief. In any other country, far less poor than India is, by now there would be class war raging– a French Revolution scenario complete with guillotines and heads rolling on the boulevard around India Gate.

That’s an exaggeration of course, but at least there would be mass protests around the nation calling for resignation of the Modi regime, the sacking of the RBI Governor, for restoration of the old Rs.500 notes and other measures that can relieve the immediate misery caused by demonetisation. Instead, so sorry is the state of our Opposition parties- except for the brave Mamata Banerjee- that instead of hitting the streets all they want is a statement from the Prime Minister in Parliament!

Given the reality that there is no organised opposition to the ruling dispensation outside, a more likely scenario is perhaps a palace coup against Modi from within. There is no doubt, while Modi is trying hide his wounds and bluster his way through the mess he has created, it is only a matter of time before, not just the Indian public, but also his own political party and fans turn on him viciously.

Leading this plot will be the Peshwas who run the RSS – unhappy with Modi getting too big for his boots and anxious to consolidate power before he fritters it away. In that case we may even see the rise of a new, more rigid and rabid version of Modi in the days ahead as his own partymen abandon him and move to the next level of their project to establish Hindu Pad Padshahi in the country.

The sad truth of all this is that if you thought Modi was bad, there are even worse characters lurking in the shadows, just waiting to take over.

Caveat: Narendra Modi is only incidental to the snaring of the Indian Republic by the powerful forces of global finance. He happens to be the right man at the right moment to do their bidding. There is no doubt any future dispensation will come under similar pressure from outside to handover the keys or encrypted passwords to the kingdom’s treasury.

It will take much more than bogus ‘Hindu Nationalism’ of the RSS Peshwas to resist the temptation to sell Indian sovereignty and independence for a few shining sovereigns more. Maybe it is time for those interested in saving the Indian Republic to revisit 1857 for clues as to what needs to done next. No, I am not comparing Mamata Banerjee to the Rani of Jhansi or Kejriwal to Tatya Tope!

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Fake News Versus No News

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The drama surrounding allegations that the internet is awash with “fake news” is being promoted by the so-called mainstream media which certainly has a lot to answer for when it comes to producing material that does not pass the smell test. Does the name Judith Miller ring any bells? And the squeaks of rage coming from the U.S. Congress over being lied to is also something to behold as the federal government has been acting in collusion with the media to dish up falsehoods designed to start wars since the time of the Spanish-American conflict in 1898, if not before.

The fake news saga is intended to discredit Donald Trump, whom the media hates mostly because they failed to understand either him or the Americans who voted for him in the recent election. You have to blame somebody when you are wrong so you invent “fake news” as the game changer that explains your failure to comprehend simple truths. To accomplish that, the clearly observable evidence that the media was piling on Donald Trump at every opportunity has somehow been deliberately morphed into a narrative that it is Trump who was attacking the media, suggesting that it was all self-defense on the part of the Rachel Maddows of this world, but anyone who viewed even a small portion of the farrago surely will have noted that it was the Republican candidate who was continuously coming under attack from both the right and left of the political-media spectrum.

There are also some secondary narratives being promoted, including a pervasive argument that Hillary Clinton was somehow the victim of the news reporting due specifically to fake stories emanating largely from Moscow in an attempt to not only influence the election but also to subvert America’s democratic institutions. I have observed that if such a truly ridiculous objective were President Vladimir Putin’s desired goal he might as well relax. Our own Democratic and Republican duopoly has already been doing a fine job at subverting democracy by assiduously separating the American people from the elite Establishment that theoretically represents and serves them.

Another side of the mainstream media lament that has been relatively unexplored is what the media chooses not to report. At the present moment, it is practically obligatory to slam Russia and Putin at every opportunity even though Moscow is too militarily weak and poor to fancy itself a global adversary of the U.S. Instead of seeking a new Cold War, Washington should instead focus on working with Russia to make sure that disagreements over policies in relatively unimportant parts of the world do not escalate into nuclear exchanges. Russian actions on its own doorstep in Eastern Europe do not in fact threaten the United States or any actual vital interest. Nor does Moscow threaten the U.S. through its intervention on behalf of the Syrian government in the Middle East. That Russia is described incessantly as a threat in those areas is largely a contrivance arranged by the media, the Democratic and Republican National Committees and by the White House. Candidate Donald Trump appeared to recognize that fact before he began listening to Michael Flynn, who has a rather different view. Hopefully the old Trump will prevail.

Blaming Russia, which has good reasons to be suspicious of Washington’s intentions, is particularly convenient for those many diverse inside the Beltway interests that require a significant enemy to keep the cash flowing out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the bank accounts of the useless grifters who inhabit K-Street and Capitol Hill. Neoconservatives are frequently described as ideologues, but the truth is that they are more interested in gaining increased access to money and power than they are in promulgating their own brand of global regime change.

There is, however, another country that has interfered in U.S. elections, has endangered Americans living or working overseas and has corrupted America’s legislative and executive branches. It has exploited that corruption to initiate legislation favorable to itself, has promoted unnecessary and unwinnable wars and has stolen American technology and military secrets. Its ready access to the mainstream media to spread its own propaganda provides it with cover for its actions and it accomplishes all that and more through the agency of a powerful and well-funded domestic lobby that oddly is not subject to the accountability afforded by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 even though it manifestly works on behalf of a foreign government. That country is, of course, Israel.

And that assessment of Israel and what damage it does regarding what most Americans would regard as genuine national interests is most definitely not reported, revealing once again that what is not written is every bit as important as what is. I would note how what has recently happened right in front of us relating to Israel is apparently not considered fit to print and will never appear on any disapproving editorial page. Just this week the Senate unanimously passed an Anti-Semitism Awareness bill and also by a 99 to zero vote renewed and strengthened sanctions against Iran, which could wreck the one year old anti-nuclear weapon proliferation agreement with that country.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is intended to give the Department of Education investigatory authority over “anti-Jewish incidents” on America’s college campuses. Such “incidents” are not limited to religious bigotry, with the examples cited in the bill’s text including criticism of Israel and claiming that the holocaust was “exaggerated.” It is a thinly disguised assault on the Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which is non-violent, does not criticize Jews as a religion or ethnicity, and is actually supported by many Jewish American who are concerned about Israel’s apartheid regime.

The Anti-Semitism bill makes Jews and Jewish interests a legally protected class, immune from any criticism. “Free speech” means in practice that you can burn an American flag, sell pornography, attack Christianity in the vilest terms or castigate the government in Washington all you want but criticizing Israel is off limits if you want to avoid falling into the clutches of the legal system. The Act is a major step forward in effectively making any expressed opposition to Israeli actions a hate crime and is similar to punitive legislation that has been enacted in twenty-two states as well as in Canada. It is strongly supported by the Israel Lobby, which quite likely drafted it, and is seeking to use legal challenges to delegitimize and eliminate any opposition to the policies of the state of Israel.

As the Act is clearly intended to restrict First Amendment rights if they are perceived as impacting on broadly defined Jewish sensitivities, it should be opposed on that basis alone, but it is very popular in Congress, which is de facto owned by the Israel Lobby. That the legislation is not being condemned or even discussed in the generally liberal media tells you everything you need to know about the amazing power of one particular unelected and unaccountable lobby in the U.S.

And there is always Iran to worry about. If the United States can successfully avoid a war with Russia, a conflict with the Mullahs could have major consequences even if the all-powerful U.S. military successfully rolls over its Iranian counterpart in less than a week. Iran is physically and in terms of population much larger than Iraq and it has a strong national identity. An attack by Washington would produce a powerful reaction, unleashing terrorist resources and destabilizing an economically and politically important region of the world for years to come. Currently, the nuclear agreement with Iran provides some measure of stability and also pushes backwards any possible program by Tehran to build a weapon. Iran does not threaten the United States, so why walk away from the agreement as some of Trump’s advisors urge? Or violate the agreement’s terms as the U.S. Congress seems to be doing by extending and tightening the sanctions regime with its just passed Iran Sanctions Extension Act? Look no further than the Israel Lobby. Hobbling Iran, a regional competitor, is a possible Israeli interest that should have nothing to do with the United States but yet again the United States government carries the water for the extreme right wing Netanyahu regime.

Israel for its part has welcomed the Trump election by building 500 new and completely illegal settler homes in what was once Arab East Jerusalem. Trump has surrounded himself with advocates for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s expectation that he will have a free hand in dealing with those pesky Palestinians is probably correct. I would like to think that Donald Trump will unpleasantly surprise him based on actual American rather than Israeli interests but am not optimistic.

Indeed, deference to perceived Israeli interests enforced by the Israel Lobby and media permeates the entire American foreign policy and national security structure. Congressman Keith Ellison who is seeking to become Democratic National Committee Chairman is being called an anti-Semite for “implying U.S. policy in the region [the Middle East] favored Israel at the expense of Muslim-majority countries, remarks ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt described as ‘deeply disturbing and disqualifying.’” Donald Trump and his senior counselor Steve Bannon have also both been called anti-Semites and several other potential GOP appointees have been subjected to the media’s fidelity-to-Israel litmus test.

The recently nominated Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who can hardly be called a moderate when it comes to Iran, has also been labeled an anti-Semite by the usual players. Why? Because in 2013 he told Wolf Blitzer

“So we’ve got to work on [peace talks] with a sense of urgency. I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and [because of this] moderate Arabs couldn’t be with us because they couldn’t publicly support those who don’t show respect for Arab Palestinians.”

Mattis continued, referring directly to Israeli apartheid:

“I’ll tell you, the current situation is unsustainable … We’ve got to find a way to make work the two-state solution that both Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, and the chances are starting to ebb because of the settlements. For example, if I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers to the east and there’s ten-thousand Arabs already there, and if we draw the border to include them, either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”

Mattis will no doubt be reminded of his remarks when he is up for Senate confirmation. A predecessor Chuck Hagel was mercilessly grilled by Senators over his reported comment that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates congressmen. But ironically nearly everyone who is not an Israel-firster who is involved in U.S. foreign and security policy knows that aggressive Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and its siege of Gaza contribute greatly to terrorism against the United States, since Washington is regularly blamed for enabling Netanyahu. When General David Petraeus said pretty much the same thing as Mattis back in 2010 he was forced to “explain” his comments, retract them and then grovel before he was eventually given a pass by the Lobby.

And there is considerable self-censorship related to the alleged sensitivity of “Jewish issues,” not only in the media. I recently attended a conference on the Iraq invasion of 2003 at which the role of Israel manifested through its controlled gaggle of American legislators and bureaucrats as a factor in going to war was not even mentioned. It was as if it would be impolite or, dare I say, anti-Semitic, to do so even though the Israeli role was hardly hidden. Former Bush administration senior official Philip Zelikow has admitted that protecting Israel was the principal reason why the U.S. invaded Iraq and others have speculated that without the persistent neocons’ and Israel’s prodding Washington might not have gone to war at all. That is apparently what then Secretary of State Colin Powell also eventually came around to believe.

So let’s stop talking about what Russia is doing to the United States, which is relatively speaking very little, and start admitting that the lopsided and completely deferential relationship with Israel is the actual central problem in America’s foreign policy. Will the media do that? Not a chance. They would rather obsess about fake news and blame Putin.

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The United Nations’ “Incomplete Apology” to Haiti

NOVANEWS
 
cholera haiti

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who will step down at the end of this month, made his most explicit apology yet for the UN’s role and responsibility in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, the world’s worst.

However, in his ballyhooed Dec. 1 address to the UN General Assembly, Ban stopped short of admitting that UN soldiers militarily occupying Haiti since 2004 introduced the deadly bacterial disease into the country in 2010.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: we apologize to the Haitian people,” Ban said in the nugget of his long speech in French, English, and Kreyòl. “We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role.”

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, whose scathing report last August put Ban on the hot seat, rightly dubbed it a “half-apology.”

“He apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” Alston told the Guardian.

The epidemic began in October 2010 when cholera-laced sewage from Nepalese UN soldiers’ outhouses leaked into the headwaters of Haiti’s most important river, the Artibonite. Within a year, it had spread throughout the country. To date, cholera has killed about 10,000 Haitians and sickened one million.

Ban’s 11th hour “half-apology” comes after a relentless campaign of legal suits, popular protests, letter writing, condemnation by celebrities, and a withering torrent of critical press reports, books, and films.

The legal crusade began on Nov. 3, 2011 when lawyers with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) filed a claim within the UN’s internal grievance system to obtain compensation for Haiti’s cholera victims, as well as a formal apology and the construction of modern water and sanitation systems. They were rebuffed in February 2013, a year and a half later, with a two page letter simply stating that the claims were “not receivable” because the UN enjoys legal immunity.

For the next three years, the IJDH, along with other legal teams, attempted to sue the UN in New York State courts, but in 2015 and 2016 decisions, both district and appeals courts upheld the UN’s legal immunity, as argued by U.S. government attorneys. (The UN never deigned to appear.)

But as lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr., the IJDH’s executive director, noted: “Every time they had a victory in court supporting their supposed legal immunity, it turned into a public relations disaster due to the negative press coverage and its amplification by social media.”

As Special Rapporteur Alston remarked, the UN was employing a “stonewalling” strategy and “double standard” which “undermines both the UN’s overall credibility and the integrity of the Office of the Secretary-General.”

It is true that the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) troops “did not do enough” to stop cholera’s spread from the central Artibonite Valley where it emerged. As a veteran cholera-fighting Cuban doctor told Haïti Liberté when the epidemic began in October 2010: “They are doing exactly the wrong thing” by admitting cholera patients into general hospitals and clinics and not sealing off the outbreak area.

Ban’s carefully worded apology, similar to his 2014 tour of Haiti with statements citing the UN’s “moral duty” to fight cholera, seek to repair the UN’s tattered credibility and Ban’s pock-marked legacy, while avoiding any true legal liability and obligations.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

To sweeten the deal, Ban promised (although he won’t be around) that the UN would try to raise “around $400 million over two years” to support efforts like a cholera vaccination campaign (which Haitian biologist/journalist Dady Chery condemns as “useless”) as well as “improvements in people’s access to care and treatment when sick, while also addressing the longer-term issues of water, sanitation, and health systems.” This latter step is the only way to stop the spread of cholera.

The UN’s previous anti-cholera fund drives have been singularly unsuccessful, raising only 18% of a $2.1 billion “Cholera Elimination” plan proposed for 2013-2022. As Concannon told a Dec. 2 conference call, “as hard as we fought to get those promises made, we’re going to have to fight even harder to get those promises fulfilled.”

“For six years, the UN has been saying it doesn’t have the money,” Concannon continued. “We’ve been saying that they’ve been spending between $800 million to $400 million a year for over 12 years for a ‘peacekeeping mission’ in a country which has not had a war in my lifetime… Since the cholera epidemic started, the MINUSTAH has spent over $4 billion, and we think that’s a powerful argument to make when the UN says it doesn’t have money for a cholera epidemic which they started, while they have plenty of money for a ‘grave threat against international peace’ which never existed.”

Indeed, it remains to be seen if the UN will use its new cholera-fighting promises to prolong the mandate of the highly unpopular MINUSTAH, which was originally proposed to deploy only six months in 2004. Its latest six-month extension expires in April 2016, before which the mission will undergo a “strategic assessment,” Ban said in August.

In conjunction with his Dec. 1 address, Ban released a Nov. 25 report to the General Assembly entitled “A new approach to cholera in Haiti.” In it, he referred to a 2013 UN-commissioned medical panel’s report which stated that “the exact source of introduction of cholera into Haiti will never be known with scientific certainty,” however, “the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH facility were the most likely source.” This is the closest Ban ever came to an actual admission of guilt for an epidemic whose source “will never be known with scientific certainty.”

“We’re moving forward but we’re not finished,” said Jean-Charles August, a teacher from Petit-Goâve, who is one of the cholera victims represented by IJDH and its sister International Lawyers Bureau (BAI) in Haiti. “We want eradication and compensation.”

“This is more of a beginning than an end in terms of our fight,” Concannon told the conference call of lawyers, activists, and journalists. In the weeks and months ahead, the IJDH, along with the Haitian government and others, will be in negotiations with the UN for exactly how “eradication and compensation” should come about. The current Haitian UN ambassador, Jean Wesley Cazeau, applauded Ban’s “radical change of attitude” and looked forward to concrete results.

As a Dec. 5 New York Daily News editorial summed up the situation: “Up next, and urgently: a practical reckoning to undo the damage done.”

In short, only time will tell if Ban’s parting gesture reflects a genuine committment within the UN to compensate the Haitian people and eradicate cholera, or was simply a head-feint to continue the UN’s shameful record over the last 70 year, from Korea to Afghanistan to Haiti, of leaving death and destruction in countries it invades (at Washington’s behest) to supposedly help.

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Palestinian Zionist Puppets attack on Atzmon

NOVANEWS

Image result for STAR OF DAVID AS NAZI LOGO

Photo by shoah

Palestinian writers, activists disavow racism, anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon

Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon

Note: This statement was first published by the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) and is authored by all of the undersigned.

For many years now, Gilad Atzmon, a musician born in Israel and currently living in the United Kingdom, has taken on the self-appointed task of defining for the Palestinian movement the nature of our struggle, and the philosophy underpinning it. He has done so through his various blogs and Internet outlets, in speeches, and in articles. He is currently on tour in the United States promoting his most recent book, entitled, The Wandering Who.

With this letter, we call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions.

Atzmon’s politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness”. He claims that all Jewish politics is “tribal,” and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project, but a trans-historical “Jewish” one, part and parcel of defining one’s self as a Jew. Therefore, he claims, one cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine, because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist. We could not disagree more. Indeed, we believe Atzmon’s argument is itself Zionist because it agrees with the ideology of Zionism and Israel that the only way to be a Jew is to be a Zionist.

Palestinians have faced two centuries of orientalist, colonialist and imperialist domination of our native lands. And so as Palestinians, we see such language as immoral and completely outside the core foundations of humanism, equality and justice, on which the struggle for Palestine and its national movement rests. As countless Palestinian activists and organizers, their parties, associations and campaigns, have attested throughout the last century, our struggle was never, and will never be, with Jews, or Judaism, no matter how much Zionism insists that our enemies are the Jews. Rather, our struggle is with Zionism, a modern European settler colonial movement, similar to movements in many other parts of the world that aim to displace indigenous people and build new European societies on their lands.

We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.

Indeed, we regard any attempt to link and adopt antisemitic or racist language, even if it is within a self-described anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist politics, as reaffirming and legitimizing Zionism. In addition to its immorality, this language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying our homeland, expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation. It leaves one squarely outside true solidarity with Palestine and its people.

The goal of the Palestinian people has always been clear: self determination. And we can only exercise that inalienable right through liberation, the return of our refugees (the absolute majority of our people) and achieving equal rights to all through decolonization. As such, we stand with all and any movements that call for justice, human dignity, equality, and social, economic, cultural and political rights. We will never compromise the principles and spirit of our liberation struggle. We will not allow a false sense of expediency to drive us into alliance with those who attack, malign, or otherwise attempt to target our political fraternity with all liberation struggles and movements for justice.

As Palestinians, it is our collective responsibility, whether we are in Palestine or in exile, to assert our guidance of our grassroots liberation struggle. We must protect the integrity of our movement, and to do so we must continue to remain vigilant that those for whom we provide platforms actually speak to its principles.

When the Palestinian people call for self-determination and decolonization of our homeland, we do so in the promise and hope of a community founded on justice, where all are free, all are equal and all are welcome.

Until liberation and return.

Signed: ‘ By Palestinian Zionist puppet’s’ ‘Shoah’
  • Ali Abunimah
  • Naseer Aruri, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
  • Omar Barghouti, human rights activist
  • Hatem Bazian, Chair, American Muslims for Palestine
  • Andrew Dalack, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network
  • Haidar Eid, Gaza
  • Nada Elia, US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
  • Toufic Haddad
  • Kathryn Hamoudah
  • Adam Hanieh, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London
  • Mostafa Henaway, Tadamon! Canada
  • Monadel Herzallah, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network
  • Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate
  • Andrew Kadi
  • Abir Kobty, Palestinian blogger and activist
  • Joseph Massad, Professor, Columbia University, NY
  • Danya Mustafa, Israeli Apartheid Week US National Co-Coordinator & Students for Justice in Palestine- University of New Mexico
  • Dina Omar, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Haitham Salawdeh, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network
  • Sobhi Samour, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London
  • Khaled Ziada, SOAS Palestine Society, London
  • Rafeef Ziadah, poet and human rights advocate

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South Korea’s Political Crisis: Who Was Behind the Dissolution of the UPP Opposition Party?

NOVANEWS
Park-Geun-hye

Recently leaked evidence suggests Park Geun-hye’s former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon may have meddled in the Constitutional Court’s controversial 2014 ruling to dissolve the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP). A journal left behind by the late Kim Young-han, former Senior Blue House Secretary for Civil Affairs,suggests Kim Ki-choon had prior knowledge of the court’s verdict and discussed it at a meeting at the Blue House two days before the court delivered its ruling. According to the journal, Kim Ki-choon also had insider knowledge of a split among the Constitutional Court judges on whether the court’s decision to dissolve the party should unseat UPP’s representatives in the National Assembly.

Kim Ki-choon, who was instrumental in drafting the 1972 Yushin constitution that granted dictatorial powers to Park Geun-hye’s father Park Chung-hee, also served as the Minister of Justice during Roh Tae-woo’s military dictatorship and was the chief orchestrator of the motion to impeach former President Roh Moo-hyun in the National Assembly in 2004. He has often been criticized for wielding excessive power as Park Geun-hye’s chief counsel.

Former Blue House Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon (Photo - http://blog.donga.com/sjdhksk/archives/51901)

The UPP was dissolved by an unprecedentedConstitutional Court ruling in December 2014 in response to a petition filed by the Park Geun-hye government, which alleged that the party was under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution.

Kim Young-han’s journal, recently released by his family to the media, contains a detailed record of Blue House cabinet meetings while he served as a senior secretary to the president. It has become the focus of the National Assembly’s ongoing “Choi Soon-sil Gate” hearings, broadcast on live television everyday this week, and is fanning public indignation ahead of Friday’s vote on Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in the National Assembly.

New Evidence Suggests Blue House Meddled in Dissolution of Opposition Party and Sewol Fact-finding

Kim Young-han had written on December 17, 2014, “Party dissolution confirmed, proportional representatives lose seats” under a section entitled “Chief,” denoting then-Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon. The Constitutional Court announced its 8 to 1 verdict to dissolve the UPP two days later on December 19.

Kim Young-han had also written, “Split on whether district representatives should lose their seats; chief justice mediating opinion (today). After mediation, 19th, early 22nd.” It appears the Blue House also had insider knowledge of diverging opinions among the judges on whether the UPP’s district representatives to the National Assembly, i.e. elected by the people of their districts, should lose their seats as a result of the court’s ruling. It also apparently knew that the chief justice was in the process of mediating consensus and that the court would deliver its ruling on December 19 or 22.

The Constitutional Court has said in the past that it had reached its final ruling to dissolve the UPP just prior to its announcement on December 19, 2014. But Kim had noted both the verdict and the timing of the announcement two days before it actually occurred. This implies the possibility of illicit contact between the Blue House and the Constitutional Court and raisesserious questions about the political independence of the judiciary.

Other records in the journal indicate that the Blue House kept close track of public opinion on the UPP case and may have collaborated with the Ministry of Justice to exert undue influence. The following are excerpts from the journal:

August 25, 2014— “Find ways to provide support regarding UPP case;” “Trial in progress, __ with Justice Ministry TF (Task Force).

(What “support” might the Blue House have sought to provide regarding the UPP case and to whom? And did it collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to meddle in the case? The note attributes these comments to Kim Ki-choon, who appears to have played a key role in the dissolution of the UPP.)

November 25, 2014— “Constitutional court trial— public opinion battle, direction of activity established (civil society activity).” (On the same day, right-wing groups gathered outside the Constitutional Court to burn the flag of the UPP and demand the dissolution of the party.)

November 26, 2014— “Persuade constitutional scholar to write column— collaborate with Justice Ministry

November 28, 2016— “Director of Central Election Management Committee— excludes qualification of local representatives— law— shortcoming— alternative party— legal regulation— formal review— divergent views— revocation lawsuit (administrative). Constitutional litigation.”

(This suggests that even before the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Blue House knew that a ruling to dissolve the party would not unseat UPP lawmakers in local legislatures, and that it anticipated a legal challenge from the UPP’s local lawmakers and was thus preparing countermeasures.)

December 11, 2014— “New Politics Alliance for Democracy, opposes UPP dissolution — Saenuri rebuttal preparation.” (On the same day, the Supreme Council of the Saenuri Party denounced then-New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Chair Moon Jae-in for his opposition to dissolving the UPP.)

December 28, 2014— “Post-UPP dissolution follow-up (civic group)

December, 29, 2014— “UPP follow-up investigation (rank and file)” (This was noted around the time the prosecutor general raised the possibility of investigating and punishing rank and file members of the UPP and suggests the Blue House may have exerted undue pressure on the prosecutor general.)

At a press conference earlier this week, former UPP Chair Lee Jung-hee demanded Park Geun-hye and Kim Ki-choon explain their role in the dissolution of the party— “What conspiracy did the president and the Blue House scheme to forcibly dissolve the UPP? President Park Gun-hye and former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon must confess.” She added, “The dissolution of the UPP was an act of political retaliation planned by the Blue House, which mobilized right wing groups and the ruling party to carry it out.”

Blue House Diary Notes on Sewol

Kim Young-han’s journal also suggests the Blue Housemay have interfered with the recovery efforts after the Sewol tragedy. He had written on October 27, 2014, “Raising the Sewol— body recovery X, government responsibility, burden.” The comment was attributed to Kim Ki-Choon and noted on the day that the bereaved families of the Sewol tragedy requested the government continue to search for the missing bodies of the Sewol victims. Nine bodies are still missing.

Kim Ki-choon, who appeared as a witness at the National Assembly’s “Choi Soon-sil Gate” hearing this week, was asked pointedly, “Did you say at a Blue House cabinet meeting that recovering the bodies of the Sewol tragedy will be a burden to the government?” Kim Ki-choon denied having said any of the things attributed to him in Kim Young-han’s journal and suggested the notes are merely the subjective thoughts of the author.

Kim Young-han’s notes also suggest the Blue House meddled in the composition of the Sewol fact-finding commission-

November 28, 2014— “Sewol Tragedy Fact-finding Commission 17 people— vice chair and executive director (aspiring politician),” followed by “2) Seok Dong-hyun, 1) Jo Dae-hwan”

(Two weeks later on December 11, 2014, the Saenuri Party appointed five people to the Sewol special investigative commission, including Attorney Jo Dae-hwan as vice chair and executive director, just as Kim’s notes had indicated, as well as Attorney Seok Dong-hyun as a non-standing commissioner.)

December 19, 2014— “Sewol Fact-finding Commission—Supreme Court—Justice Ministry cooperation” (This comment, too, was attributed to Kim Ki-choon.)

After Impeachment— All Eyes on Constitutional Court

The National Assembly will vote on Park Geun-hye’s impeachment tomorrow, Friday at 3 pm (Seoul). Impeachment seems a near certainty as the Saenuri Party, keenly aware of public sentiment, has decided not to vote against impeachment as a bloc but allow the party’s lawmakers to vote individually as they wish. Opposition party lawmakers have all vowed to resign should the impeachment vote fail to pass and are keeping vigil overnight at the National Assembly to demonstrate their unified stance on the eve of the vote.

If the impeachment vote passes, all eyes will then turn to the Constitutional Court, which has 180 days to deliver a ruling on the impeachment while the prime minister serves as acting president. The mass protests that made the historic impeachment vote possible will shift their focus to ensure that the Constitutional Court delivers a just ruling. This time, the Blue House and meddlers like Kim Ki-choon will have no room to maneuver to shape the outcome.

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Blood Diamonds: More than One Fifth of Diamonds Sold Worldwide are Funding Bloodshed and Violence

NOVANEWS
Diamond ring by Koshy Koshy (CC BY 2.0)

Nobody wants to give, or receive, a present tarnished by bloodshed and violence, but this Christmas, many people will end up with  blood on their hands.

Over one-fifth of diamonds on the global market in value terms are a significant source of funding for regimes guilty of the most grievous human rights violations.  If these diamonds were funding rebel groups they would, rightly, be considered blood diamonds and banned. But these blood diamonds evade all regulation, are labelled conflict-free and masquerade as ethical diamonds.

Successful fraudsters tell barefaced lies that are so audacious their victims cannot begin to believe or even suspect that anything is awry. This is precisely how the jewellery industry has conned the public and mainstream media into believing the trade in blood diamonds has ended even though the industry continues to launder $billions of blood diamonds every year.

Smoke and Mirrors 

There is no legal definition of a blood diamond. However, most people consider diamonds associated with, or that are a significant source of revenue used to commit, war crimes or crimes against humanity to be blood diamonds.  But when revenue from diamonds is used to fund human rights violations by government forces, it is ignored and swept under the carpet by the jewellery industry.

The Kimberley Process (KP) regulations govern the trade in rough (unpolished) diamonds. Some of those who drafted the KP regulations would lose the most if all blood diamonds were banned. It should be no surprise then that the trade in blood diamonds remains fully legal.  Yes, fully legal.

There are no laws banning blood diamonds. The KP only prohibits trade in “conflict diamonds” the definition of which is deliberately restricted to “rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”.

While rough diamonds, which are traded within the diamond industry, are regulated, the cut-and-polished diamonds which consumers buy are not.

Despite the chorus of voices in the diamond industry claiming “conflict diamonds” constitute less than 1% of the global market, over one-fifth of diamonds (in value terms) come from or are processed in countries governed by rogue regimes guilty of serious human rights violations. One of these countries, Israel, has developed a stockpile of unregulated nuclear weapons.

Employing a smoke and mirror matrix of regulations, warranties, standards and carefully crafted buzzwords, the diamond jewellery industry, in cahoots with vested governments, has constructed a near perfect cover for the trade in blood diamonds.

Quarantine and Sanitize 

From the outset, the diamond jewellery industry has employed tactics to restrict and minimize the fallout from the blood diamond problem.

By limiting discussion about blood diamonds to the sourcing of rough diamonds the industry tries to corral the issue within the mining sector in Africa primarily thereby protecting the high value cut and polished diamond trade on which the entire industry is so dependant.

Although revenue from the Israeli diamond industry is estimated to generate $1billion per year for the Israeli military which stands accused of war crimes, cut-and-polished blood diamonds evade all legal sanction and freely enter the legitimate market.

Rather than using the term blood diamond, the more palatable, less emotive and very restrictive term “conflict diamond” was latched on to by the jewellery industry.

The focus on “conflict diamonds”, which only applies to rough diamond used by rebels, keeps consumers in the dark about other blood diamonds that fund human rights violations by state agents. It promotes public acceptance of the view that blood diamonds are only a problem in areas where rebel movements are involved in violence against legitimate governments.

But this is not the case as blood diamonds, both rough and cut-and-polished, also fund rogue governments, some with the most sophisticated weapons of war that they frequently use against civilian populations under their cosh.

Faux Credentials 

In order to disguise the gaping hole in the Kimberley Process regulations that allows for the legal trade in blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes the World Diamond Council introduced a bogus System of Warranties (SoW).

The SoW purports to extend the scope of the Kimberley Process to cut-and-polished diamonds by the seller of diamonds self-certifying diamonds are conflict free simply by including the following statement on sales invoices:

“The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”

This meaningless statement is plainly not worth the paper it’s written on. It doesn’t change or enhance the Kimberley Process regulations one iota. The “conflict free” claim cannot be substantiated.  It doesn’t mean the diamonds haven’t generated funds for regimes guilty of human rights violations. Therefore, it cannot provide any guarantee that a diamond is conflict free.

“Legitimate sources” include diamond companies in Israel, Angola and Zimbabwe where the diamond industry is linked to serious human rights violations.

It has become increasingly difficult for the industry to maintain this charade. In the October issue of IDEX Magazine Cecelia Gardner wrote:

As for “conflict-free” – well this claim is so vague as to have no real meaning” 

Cecelia Gardner is President, CEO and General Counsel of the Jewellers Vigilance Committee and General Counsel and Director of the US Kimberley Process Committee and, most significantly, she was General Counsel of the World Diamond Council, the organisation that introduced the bogus SoW that certifies diamonds as conflict-free.

She’s absolutely right. The term “conflict-free” has no real meaning, deliberately so.

Ms. Gardner goes on to ask: Conflict where?

She clearly needs to spend some time in Palestine, in the Lundas region of Angola or the Marange area of Zimbabwe.

The discredited Kimberley Process and the bogus SoW form the platform on which the global jewellery industry has piled a plethora of porous standards to deceive the public and mask the bloodshed and corruption which envelopes the industry all the way to some of the most exclusive jewellery establishments and red-carpet occasions worldwide.

Whitewashing 

The most egregious of these fraudulent standards must be the Code of Practices (COP) promoted by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC).

The RJC was set up in 2005 by leading companies and organisations in the diamond and jewellery industry to create their own standards and certification system. However, the RJC employs the Kimberley Process and WDC System of Warranties as the benchmark for ethical diamonds.

The RJC claims their 2013 COP is an international standard of responsible business practices for diamonds that is aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and includes provision on sourcing from conflict-affected areas.

The Principles require businesses to respect human rights and “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts”.

This should mean companies that buy or sell blood diamonds or companies that discriminate in employment practices could never be certified by the RJC. But this is not the case. The standard for compliance with the RJC Code of Practices is the KP and SoW which green-lights blood diamonds linked to human rights violations by government forces.

Apparently, for the RJC, “conflict-affected areas” doesn’t include Israel/Palestine, a region where a diamond-funded regime holds brutal sway over the indigenous Palestinian population which has been severely disenfranchised and subjected to relentless human rights violations for over 60 years.

In 2011, human rights activists from around the world co-signed a letter to the RJC pointing out the link between the Israeli diamond industry and gross human rights violations by the Israeli military. In response, the RJC said they did not accept that “the diamonds sold by Israeli companies should be considered ‘blood diamonds’”.

The RJC is a member of ISEAL Alliance, an association of international standard-setting organisations and accreditation bodies that promotes the development of credible sustainability standards. Members must comply with ISEAL Codes of Good Practices which are based on set of Credibility Principles designed to assure the rigour and veracity of standards.

Provisions 6, 10, 12 and 20 of the RJC COP set standards for Human Rights, Money Laundering, Provenance Claims and Non-discrimination respectively. Despite this, companies whose supply chain is linked to the Israeli diamond industry are certified members of the RJC.

Diamond companies in Israel directly and indirectly fund a military regime guilty of grievous human rights violations; claim their diamonds are conflict-free; discriminate against non-Jewish Palestinians who comprise 20% of the population and are mired by a corruption scandal that in 2012 plunged the sector into chaos.

The RJC’s “whitewashing” of companies that trade in diamonds linked to human rights violations undermines the credibility of ISEAL and calls into question the diligence of ISEAL accreditation.

Multibillion Dollar Fraud

Armed with faux credentials – KP compliance, a bogus System Of Warranties and certification by the so-called, Responsible Jewellery Council – the jewellery industry perpetrates a multibillion dollar fraud selling diamonds which they claim are conflict-free even though they fund bloodshed and corruption in Israel/Palestine, Angola and Zimbabwe.

De Beers Diamond Insight Report 2016 indicates that the global polished diamond market was worth US$24.7 billion in 2015.  According to the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry Israel’s polished diamonds exports were valued at US$4.996 billion net in 2015. However, data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) website indicates that the value of Israel’s polished diamond exports (HS code 710239) was US$11.3billion net with US$6.5billion net going to the USA which accounts for 45% of the global diamond market.  The international diamond new site The Diamond Loupe and The International Trade Centre quote figures in line the CBS data.

$Billions more of untraceable cut-and-polished blood diamonds of Zimbabwean and Angolan origin contaminate the global market after being comingled in Dubai and exported to India, China, and elsewhere.

The fact that the Kimberley Process certifies diamonds linked to serious human rights violations is beyond dispute. Human rights organisations have documented atrocities by government forces in Israel, Angola and Zimbabwe and yet, diamonds that are a significant source of funding for these regimes continue to legally enter the market and are certified conflict-free.

Israel

The diamond industry in Israel is a cornerstone of the economy, accounting for 30% of manufacturing exports worth over US$20billion gross (US$11billion net) in 2014. Without revenue from the diamond industry the Israeli government would find it financially and politically difficult to sustain the 49 year illegal occupation of Palestine and brutal subjugation of 4.5 million Palestinians.

Human rights organisations, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the Israeli organisation B’Tselem, to name just a few, have documented gross human rights violations by Israeli government forces.

In the past year alone, approximately 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, many of them children in circumstances where they posed no threat.

In 2014 Israeli forces killed over 2250 people in Gaza the vast majority of them innocent civilians including 551 children. More than 11,000 Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured with almost 10 percent suffering permanent disabilities.

The massacre of civilians, wanton destruction of over 18,000 homes and targeting of schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure  including water, electricity and sewage facilities in Gaza, could amount to war crimes according to a report by the UNHRC

During the 51 day bombardment of the besieged Gaza strip, where nearly 2 million people are confined – mainly refugees and their descendants ethnically cleansed form their homes and land in Palestine by Zionist militia in 1948 – members of the Israeli diamond industry helped fund the attack and sent truck loads of equipment to the soldiers responsible for the carnage.

As well as funding unregulated nuclear weapons, bloodshed and violence the Israeli diamond industry, which is notorious for discrimination in employment against non-Jews, is guilty of large scale corruption– operating an illegal bank that laundered billions of shekels.

Angola

In 2011 the award winning author and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais exposed hundreds of cases of murder, torture, mutilation, rape and corruption linked to the diamond industry. His book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola documented the link between generals in the Angolan military and government ministers, shareholders in mining companies and security companies that have committed atrocities in the diamond mining district of Lundas.

In 2011 the main export destinations for Angolan diamonds were Dubai (47%), Israel (22%) and Switzerland (19%).

In a 2013 address to the EU Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights de Morais remarked:

“Diamonds being mined today in Lundas are no less bloody than those that funded past wars. Today, my people are being assassinated not to fund a civil war, but out of sheer greed and malignance.”

In 2015, when Angola chaired the Kimberley Process, de Morais was prosecuted for defaming the generals. He was given a six months suspended jail sentence.

Despite the clear link between the diamond industry and corruption and human rights violations diamonds from Angola are in full compliance with the Kimberley Process and the RJC COP.

Zimbabwe

In 2008, government forces in Zimbabwe are reported to have killed over 200 artisanal miners in the Marange area of the country. Human rights organisations, including Global Witness and Human Rights Watch, labelled the diamonds blood diamonds and sought to have them banned.

Diamond exports from the Marange area were halted by the KP for “administrative reasons” in 2009. As the human rights violations were perpetrated by government forces, not by rebels, the blood diamonds which funded them were not “conflict diamonds”.

In 2011, after the KP members refused to broaden the definition of a “conflict diamond”, the blood diamonds from Marange were certified by the KP and allowed to legally enter the legitimate market.

In 2014 non-governmental organisations (NGO) continued to document serious incidents of human rights violations and corruption associated with the diamond industry in the Marange.  The Centre for Research and Development in Zimbabwe noted:

“What is appalling is the fact that all the 7 companies mining in Marange are either wholly owned by government or government has 51 percent controlling stake. Driven by economic hardships and bitterness stemming from the realisation that they will never benefit from this diamond resource, people from Marange and Zimbabweans alike continue to break into Chiadzwa diamond fields to pan for diamonds in order to make ends meet Responses from company security officials continue to be brutal and heavy handed.” 

Several reports indicate that the government of Zimbabwe has lost an estimated US$15 billion in revenue when it was stolen by companies operating in Marange where the local population has been displaced and subjected to brutal attacks by security forces.

Blood diamonds from Angola and Zimbabwe go on to fund even more bloodshed and violence by Israeli forces in Palestine.

The Motherload of Corruption 

The diamond industry is also a major facilitator of corruption involving the looting of resources from poor African countries.

Transfer pricing, the practice of undervaluing exports to avoid taxes in producer countries, remains a serious problem. The variation of the value of rough diamonds depends on a whole host of factors which make it difficult for authorities in poor producing countries to monitor and adequately evaluate the true value of exported goods.

The United Arab Emirates, which chairs the KP in 2016, has been identified as a key link in the transfer pricing scandal. A cursory examination of KP statistics reveals that between 2009 and 2015, the value of rough diamonds re-exported from UAE increased in value by 35% to 74%. The average mark-up over that period was 52%. This extraordinary increase in value cannot be explained by sorting and valuation: that normally gives rise to only a 10-15% increase.

The fact that the Kimberley Process allows non-producing countries such as UAE to issue new KP certificates when re-exporting diamonds facilitates the comingling of blood diamonds from the Zimbabwe and Angola for export to centres in Belgium, Switzerland, USA, Israel, India and China.

In this way billions of dollars of Marange diamonds passed through Dubai’s Tax Free Zone where they were comingled and issued with KP Certificates of mixed origin and thus became untraceable.

The exposure of this corruption in Dubai appears to have made it too hot for comfort and the USA is now the destination of choice for transfer pricing fraudsters. In the September issue of IDEX Magazine, renowned diamond industry analyst Mr. Chaim Evan Zohar revealed astonishing details about the diamond import/export racket in the USA which is described as a “transfer pricing paradise”.  The article indicates that the KP officials in the USA falsified (“massages”) export figures in an effort to conceal the corruption and that NGO’s have turned a blind eye to “the elephant in the room”.

Corporate Complicity 

The world’s leading diamond company, De Beers, sets out the conditions which their business partners must adhere to, their Best Practice Principles. The usual buzzwords, “sustainability”, “human rights”, “responsible sourcing”  “ethical standards”, “non discrimination” etc are codified.  But, like the RJC, De Beers’ standard for ethical diamonds is based largely on the Kimberley Process and the bogus SOW.

Making a mockery of their own Principles, De Beers continues to trade with companies in Israel where discrimination in the diamond industry is rife and revenue from the industry is directly and indirectly channelled to the military which is guilty of gross human rights violations.

According to De Beers’s website, one of their business partners, A.B.T. Diamonds Ltd., makes significant contributions to the Israeli military as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Another client of De Beers, the Steinmetz Diamond Group which is part of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR), was re-branded as Diacore after human rights activists exposed the fact that the Steinmetz Foundation funds and supports a Unit of the notorious Givati Brigade of the Israeli military. The Givati is guilty of the massacre of the Samouni family in Gaza – a suspected war crime according to the UNHRC.

Diacore and the auctioneering firm Sotheby’s are 50:50 partners in Sotheby’s Diamonds .

BSGR is also a major supplier of Tiffany’s which continues to source diamonds from a BSGR mine in Sierra Leone. An open letter to Tiffany’s CEO published in December 2015 details the risk to Tiffany’s brand and reputation from its relationship with BSGR.

BSGR’s funding and support for suspected Israeli war criminals has not disqualified it from doing business with De Beers, Sotheby’s or Tiffany.

The KP Charade Continues

While the term “conflict-free” has “no real meaning” for jewellers, consumers, consumer-rights organisations and advertising standards organisations would likely have a different view.

Anyone that paid thousands of dollars for a diamond they were lead to believe was conflict-free might well feel aggrieved to learn that the entire edifice on which such assurances were construed was nothing more than a quagmire of lies.

In a Press Release in 2010 Martin Rapaport, a leading voice in the global diamond industry said:

“The Kimberley Process (KP) is aiding and abetting severe human rights violations as it certifies, legalizes and legitimizes blood diamonds“

Nothing has changed in the interim. The KP hasn’t broadened the definition of a “conflict diamond” – the issue wasn’t even on the agenda at the recent KP Plenary meeting in Dubai.

In 2016, the KP was chaired by Ahmed Bin Sulaymen, from the United Arab Emirates. Despite his best efforts to woo members of the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) – even setting up a fund to reward NGOs that participate in KP events – the CSC upheld a yearlong boycott of the KP.  The CSC protested the UAE’s chairmanship because of the lax controls which facilitate transfer pricing in the Dubai Duty Free Zone.

It will take more than the CSC fig-leaf to obscure the KPs complicity in facilitating the trade in blood diamonds. In 2017 Australia will chair the KP and perhaps a more honest and realistic approach to the blood diamond problem will be forthcoming. If the diamond industry doesn’t excise the rogue regimes from the supply pipe then the industry has no hope of convincing a new generation of better informed consumers to buy into their propaganda.

Posted in CampaignsComments Off on Blood Diamonds: More than One Fifth of Diamonds Sold Worldwide are Funding Bloodshed and Violence

Honoring Henry Kissinger at Oslo

NOVANEWS
kissinger

On December 10-11, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo will be launched, featuring Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski addressing the theme, “The U.S. and World Peace after the Presidential Election.” The Forum is intended to become an annual event closely linked to the celebrations surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize.

As many will remember, Kissinger, along with Le Duc Tho, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, perhaps the most controversial award in the long history of this most coveted prize. The prize in 1973 was given to the two men who negotiated the peace agreement that finally brought the war in Vietnam to a close. While the negotiations were in their most pivotal phase, the U.S. Government introduced the notorious ‘Christmas Bombing’ terrorist tactic to increase its diplomatic leverage over Hanoi, which also served to reassure its corrupt allies in Saigon that they were not being abandoned by Washington. Le Duc Tho, to his credit, citing this infamous background, refused the prize, while Kissinger accepted although he did not attend the ceremony.

What is difficult to grasp, is the thinking of the organizers of Nobel Peace Prize Forum, which led them to such infamous war-oriented political and intellectual figures as Kissinger and Brzezinski. Of course, the guardians of the Nobel are not alone. Among the many depressing features of the recent American presidential campaign was the distressing news that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump paid homage to Kissinger by publicizing foreign policy briefing visits with this most shaky pillar of the Washington establishment, but neither Clinton nor Trump aspire to the ideals of world peace that are supposed to animate the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kissinger’s involvement, direct and indirect, with the criminality of foreign governments that cruelly repress their own populations has been abundantly documented, set forth in a non-technical format by Christopher Hitchens in The Trial of Henry Kissinger (Verso, 2001), and in a more legal format in declassified government documents. This record establishes a strong case for investigation and likely prosecution for a long list of international crimes, including especially crimes against humanity. An NGO founded and led by the world renowned peace intellectual Fredrik Heffermehl, The Nobel Peace Prize Watch, has urged the Director of Public Prosecutions in Norway to take appropriate action with the view toward holding Kissinger criminally accountable.

Whether Norwegian law allows its courts to proceed in such a case depends on whether universal jurisdiction is considered available to address the alleged crimes (committed outside of Norway) of Kissinger. Because of the constraints surrounding the activity of the International Criminal Court, especially in dealing with the criminality of Western states, it is particularly important that national courts act as enforcement agents of the world community and end the impunity enjoyed by those who have so frequently and fragrantly violated international criminal law. In light of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Nuremberg Principles there seems to be an adequate foundation in international customary law for national courts to accept this responsibility to raise the level of accountability in international society. The physical presence of Kissinger in Norway offers an opportunity that were we living in a world where the global rule of law prevailed would not be missed. Sadly, we are aware that in the global setting providing the backdrop for his crimes geopolitics rather than the rule of law sets the tone, and it is highly unlikely that Kissinger will be formally apprehended when he visits Norway, although popular demonstrations are certain to occur. This tension between governmental refusal to adhere to the global rule of law and societal initiatives to impose accountability explain the international pervasiveness of double standards with regard to the implementation of international criminal law: accountability for the weak, impunity for the strong.

What is equally distressing is the Orwellian insensitivity of the Nobel authorities to the inappropriateness of treating Kissinger as though he is a highly trusted source of guidance and wisdom with respect to world peace. Kissinger has applauded the worst excesses of dictators, especially in Latin America, and backed the most immoral geopolitical policies throughout his long career. He has never even pretended to be interested in promoting a more peaceful world, and has viewed the United Nations with cynical indifference unless it can be deployed to promote U.S. geopolitical goals. Indeed, Kissinger has often argued in his writings that those who pursue peace as a value or goal are those most likely to induce war. While Secretary of State, Kissinger also admits being annoyed by aides urging greater attentiveness to the relevance of international law and morality.

Even pragmatically, Kissinger is hardly a helpful guide. As a warmonger, he has generally supported the long list of failed American interventions, including Vietnam. What is uncanny about the Kissinger brand is that his repeated errors of judgment have not tarnished his reputation, nor have his distasteful moral postures lowered the level of mainstream respect. In an article recently appearing in The New Yorker (Aug. 20, 2016) Jon Lee Anderson uses declassified materials to show how Kissinger lauded the Argentinian rulers for ridding their country of terrorism in the course of the despicable ‘dirty war,’ overlooking reliance on the vile tactics of torture and ‘disappearances’ systematically used against nonviolent activists and progressives.

It is the saddest of commentaries on the mainstream approach to peace, justice, and security that Kissinger should be singled out for honors or as a source of guidance at an event in Norway, a country with one of the strongest reputations for morally oriented internationalism. Such an impression is reinforced by Nobel sponsorship. It stretches the moral imagination to its breaking point once it is realized that those in Norway who have been entrusted with carrying out the wishes of Alfred Nobel should now be adding their weighty imprimatur to such a willfully distorted conception of world peace.

Posted in USA, PoliticsComments Off on Honoring Henry Kissinger at Oslo


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