Archive | July 29th, 2018

Iran’s National Interests: Khamenei Resets Foreign-Policy Compass

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The address by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the annual gathering in Tehran of top foreign ministry officials and envoys in foreign capitals is always a keenly watched event when vital clues to the trajectory of the country’s foreign policy and diplomacy could be gleaned. Things said openly are no doubt important, but things unsaid could at times be even more important. Besides, the entire Persian way of saying things obliquely adds to the mystique. All in all, therefore, Khamenei’s speech in Tehran on Saturday will be read and reread in chancelleries abroad as far apart as Moscow and Washington or Beijing and Brussels. (IRNA)

This year’s speech assumes particular interest as the Middle East politics is at an inflection point and great issues of war and peace are agitating the mind – and, Iran, of course, happens to be at the epicenter. Khamenei’s guidelines contained the following key elements:

  • Iran’s national interests should be the fundamental principle in foreign policies. The Islamic Revolution’s ideological moorings and national interests overlap.
  • Iran should network actively with the international community.
  • Commitment to the 2015 deal continues; negotiations will also continue with EU+EU3.
  • Talks with the US are “useless” so long as American intentions remain hostile and policies are inconsistent. (However, Khamenei didn’t slam the door shut and throw away the key, either.)
  • Let there be no doubt that Iran will retaliate strongly against any US attempt to physically stop its oil exports, by blocking the flow of all oil from Persian Gulf region to the world market.
  • Iranian presence in the region is integral to the country’s security interests and regional influence.

Khamenei’s speech makes it clear that in the pursuit of national interest, Iran will have to navigate its path on its own steam, as has been the case during its past 4-decade old history. The diplomacy will be supple but purposive (“wise and oriented”).

Khamenei didn’t mention the Syrian conflict but hinted that Iran will keep its presence in Syria. The Russian presidential envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev was in Tehran in the weekend to brief the Iranians on Helsinki summit. But he was received only at the level of Deputy Secretary in Iran’s national security council, Amir Saeid Iravani (No. 2 to Ali Shamkhani, who is also is concurrently Iran’s point person on Syria.) Interestingly, Iravani criticized Israel’s “negative role” in Syria and its attempts to interfere in Iran-Russia relations.

Iran disclosed last week that Trump made 8 attempts to contact President Hassan Rouhani but Tehran spurned these overtures. The ‘red line’ for Tehran is the US’ espousal of the ‘regime change’ agenda and renewed ties with the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) organization (which used to be in US state department’s watch list of terrorist groups.) The present US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Guiliani have been in MEK’s payroll.

No doubt, these are early days and Khamenei’s speech avoided hard-hitting remarks. It couldn’t have escaped Tehran’s attention that twice in recent past, White House signaled that it could sense moderation lately in Iran’s regional policies. Trump himself mentioned this (twice) during his press conference in Singapore following the summit with Kim Jong Un, while Bolton repeated it after his visit to Moscow two weeks ago in the run-up to the Helsinki summit.

So, could it have been just a coincidence that Iran’s official news agency IRNA carried a commentary on Saturday (which was also featured in Tehran Times) analyzing Trump’s flexible approach toward the North Korean nuclear issue? The commentary titled ‘US resilience toward North Korea’s nuclear program’ analyses that Trump “opted to withdraw from his previous hardline stance” once he understood that bullying and pressure tactic wouldn’t work with Pyongyang.

The commentary concludes that the US cannot hope to extract “constructive results” by imposing sanctions against North Korea “or any other countries” and such pressure tactic is “not going to help solve critical issues.” What it didn’t say, but seemed to imply is that Trump is quite capable of pragmatism to engage adversaries in result-oriented negotiations. Curiously, the commentary appeared on the day Khamenei was slated to address Iran’s top diplomats.

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The Looming War Against Iran

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President Donald Trump and his neocon advisors have been trying to provoke a war with Iran and Syria for many months.

The neocons are echoing Cato the Elder’s cry, ‘delenda est Carthago!’.  Iran must be destroyed.

So far, Tehran and its ally Damascus have refused to respond to US naval and air incursions or Israel’s growing air attacks in Syria. But the war of words between the US and Iran has now reached a critical phase.

Last week, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War, made his loudest threats yet against Iran, bringing the danger of war to the boiling point.  On 21 May, the hard-line US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a thunderous ultimatum to Iran during an address to the US Heritage Foundation, a rich, influential arm of America’s Israel lobby.

Pompeo made 12 totally unacceptable demands on Iran that were clearly designed to be rejected by Tehran.  Not since Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum against Serbia in 1914 have we seen such a clear effort to bring about war. Tehran quickly dismissed Pompeo as ‘a gangster.’

We are by now used to blood and thunder rhetoric between Washington and Tehran.  But this time White House policy is clearly being directed by pro-Israel American neocons who want the US military to crush Iran as it did Iraq.

Crushing Iran will leave Israel with unfettered control of the Mideast and its oil – unless Russia or Turkey intervene against Israel, which is most unlikely.  Some think Russia and Israel – and the US – have already made a deal to divvy up the central Mideast.

‘Let the Americans come,’ one Iranian militant told me, ‘they will break their teeth on Iran.’  Very colorful but hardly accurate. The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980 . This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join.  The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets:  airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent.  Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003.  The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better.  Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack.  Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks.  Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two thirds of Mideast oil exports.  The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

China vows to keep buying Iranian oil in spite of the US blockade to be imposed this fall.  This could put the US and China on a collision course.

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states, and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops.  During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

Direct western intervention in a major ground campaign seems unlikely.  But the US and Israeli war plan would aim to totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era.  That was the plan for Iraq, the Arab world’s most industrialized nation. Today Iraq still lies in ruins.

One recalls the words of the great Roman historian, Tacitus: ‘they make a desert and call it peace.

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From Brexit to Breferendum

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The consequences of the Brexit self-delusion are now becoming obvious, as Britain’s government finds itself unable to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic plan to leave the EU. If this situation persists, Britain will have only one alternative: another referendum to reconsider the impossible result of the 2016 vote.

If something is impossible, it does not happen. If a country votes to make two plus two equal five, this “democratic decision” will eventually be overridden by the rules of arithmetic, no matter how large the majority or how loudly “The People have spoken.” This is the story now playing out in Britain as Theresa May’s government stumbles toward the final act of the Brexit tragi-comedy.

In 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union while keeping “the exact same benefits” they enjoyed as EU members. David Davis, May’s former minister responsible for negotiating Brexit with the EU, used that phrase repeatedly in Parliament, and it was then taken up enthusiastically by May herself. The promises by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the chief Brexit campaigner, were even more fulsome: Britons would have complete freedom to live, work, and study throughout Europe; untrammeled access to the EU single market; and full participation in whatever political institutions a post-Brexit government might feel like cherry-picking from the EU orchard. In short, the 2016 referendum was a vote for two plus two equals five.

The consequences of this self-delusion are now becoming obvious, as Britain’s government finds itself unable to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic Brexit plan. If this situation persists, Britain will have only one alternative: another referendum to reconsider the impossible result of the 2016 vote.

The Times now estimates that there is a 50% probability of such a referendum. When Justine Greening, one of May’s recently sacked cabinet ministers, became the first senior Conservative to propose this option, the objections raised to it were no longer about the principle of a second referendum, but about the difficulty of deciding the right question and method of casting votes.

A new referendum is rising to the top of Britain’s political agenda because of the self-defeating behavior of the Conservative Party’s hardline Brexiteers. When Davis and Johnson resigned from May’s cabinet, chaotic parliamentary rebellions – from both the Euroskeptic and pro-European factions of the party – ensued. As a result, the main opposition Labour Party now sees a realistic chance of bringing down May’s government and triggering a general election by uniting with either hardline Brexiteers or pro-European Conservative rebels to kill whatever Brexit plan May ultimately puts to Parliament. Labour opposition makes every Brexit option almost certain to be blocked.

Start with the threat of a “no deal” rupture, whereby Britain would crash out of the EU with no agreement at all on a new relationship. This is now totally implausible, because all of Britain’s opposition parties, plus the clear majority of Conservative MPs whose primary loyalty is to business interests, would block it.

Almost as improbable is a “hard Brexit,” in which Britain and Europe agree to an orderly separation, but with no preferential arrangements for future trade. This, too, would be voted down by all the opposition parties, along with dozens of centrist Conservatives. Some of the Brexit hardliners also would oppose any such agreed separation, because it would force Britain to pay a large EU exit fee and to follow European rules for an open border with Ireland, in exchange for no commercial privileges at all.

May’s latest plan for a more cooperative “soft Brexit” now also faces insuperable opposition from Johnson and Davis, plus several dozen followers. These hardliners have denounced May’s new plan as “Brexit in Name Only” and a plot to turn Britain into an EU “vassal state.” Labour is now willing to enter an unholy alliance with them in the hope of precipitating a government collapse.

This leaves one final option: a parliamentary rebellion to stop Brexit. “Exit Brexit” is the official policy of the Liberals, the Greens, and the Scottish National Party. But all serious Brexiteers, plus the vast majority of Conservative MPs and the Labour leadership, who feel obliged to follow the “instructions” of the 2016 referendum obviously will not support this option.

If May finds herself unable to muster a parliamentary majority for any version of Brexit, resignation and a general election will not be her only recourse. One goal unites all the Conservative factions, regardless of their views on Europe: to avoid a general election and the risk of Labour winning power. This means that May could attach a referendum proposal to her preferred version of Brexit, justifiably claiming that Parliament’s response to the 2016 referendum should either be ratified or rejected by another popular vote. The criminal investigations launched recently into illegal spending by Johnson’s official Leave campaign, and allegations of Russian funding for former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s parallel campaign further justify a final referendum.

The Labour leadership would probably oppose a new referendum, because it would derail their efforts to force a general election. But, crucially, the Liberals and Scottish Nationalists would enthusiastically support a referendum as long as it offered voters the option of keeping Britain in the EU. As a result, May would have no trouble assembling a parliamentary majority for a legislative package that bundled her Brexit plan with a referendum to decide between it and the status quo alternative of remaining in the EU.

Logic suggests that such a referendum would reverse the 2016 decision to leave the EU, because any specific Brexit proposal presented by the government would be far less attractive than the utopian delusions that managed to secure only a narrow majority two years ago. But, by next year, the British people could be so angry with Europe that they vote Leave again. If so, Brexit could go ahead on whatever terms May negotiates, and nobody could complain about the consequences or costs.

Whatever the outcome, voters would have made an honest choice between genuinely and properly articulated options. That would be true democracy, instead of the demagoguery of two plus two equals five.

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Russian Christian TV Offers Sodomites 1-Way Tickets to California

Russian Christian TV Offers Sodomites 1-Way Tickets to California – Many Eagerly Apply (Video)

Western media heavily criticized the channel’s offer to sexual deviants

Russia Insider originally published this article in January of this year.

A Russian television channel has offered any sodomite their dream come true. A chance to get away from all the bigotry of a Christian country and enjoy living out deviance in a more open, gay friendly society, California.

Since the offer was made they have received both criticism and pleas for help. The following clip taken from said channel has the story with transcript below.

Transcript: 

Anchor:

The video clip that was published on the official page of Tsargrad TV on facebook caused a flurry of negative comments from the liberals. Popular figures, even mainstream news viciously criticised the channel’s offer to buy a one-way ticket for sodomites and other deviants to the USA or any other country willing to take them. More in our material.

Correspondent:

Liberal mainstream media and social media groups have again demonstrated their inadequacy and a totalitarian-sectarian way of thinking. The reason was our channel’s initiative.  After the news that California wants to make it easier for Russian sodomites to get a residence permit.  The people of Tsargrad TV decided to offer a way to make the deviants dreams come true. Were eve willing to pay for a one-way ticket to anyone who is serious about emigrating. They may present a medical certificate  proving their homosexuality or any other forms of deviancy. Our collective was morally ready for the overwhelming aggression although the enemies of tradition and conservative values have outdone themselves.

Youtube user Alexander Alimove writes:

“A new low”

The channel “Journalism” on Telegram has published the post message of the day:

“ The tv channel Tsargrad publicised a post where they are offering to buy a one-way ticket to allHomosexuals wishing to emigrate. They even shot a video obscurantist can rarely surprise but this message from the MSM is truly shocking. Will the author of this piece be sacked? Will the market abandon him?”

Even the chanel Dozhd responded:

“ An article with the following title was published there. The depths of Hell”

Anchor:

Aside from many insults to our presenter who volunteered to be the head of the project came dozens of actual offers from sodomites ready to emigrate.

“Hi Andre! Buy me a ticket!”

“Hello Andre! What are the conditions of getting a ticket to the USA?”

And

“What kind of medical certificate is that? What kind of form would that be?”

“Where can I get such a certificate?”

“I really want it. You are responsible for your words right? I am gay and I love all kinds of sick stuff”

“Hello, saw your broadcast today and I am interested in your offer I am twenty years old and I’m gay. I don’t have a medical certificate but I am willing to do anything in order to leave Russia I can show you all kinds of proof of my deviances photos or video, or even on your show my facebook profile doesn’t look like much only because I use VK.”

Correspondent:

Meanwhile Tsargrad started working on determining the prerequisites or emigration for the volunteers. That may take some time. Tsargrad will publish the prerequisites and rules, also a legal way of proving one’s homosexuality as soon as they will know all the information.Until then we can certainly say that in order to participate a person must be part of the sexual minority and be serious about the question of emigration. We are not a tour operator. We are the conservative majority.

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The Faces of North Korea ‘Video’

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This is my 25-minutes piece about the DPRK (North Korea) – country that I visited recently; visited and loved, was impressed with, and let me be frank – admired.

I don’t really know if I could call this a ‘documentary’. Perhaps not. A simple story, a poem, you know: I met a girl, tiny and delicate, at the roller-skating ring in Pyongyang. How old was she? Who knows; perhaps four or five. She was first clinging to her mom, then to a Korean professor Kiyul, even to a former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Then she began skating away, waving innocently, looking back at me, at us, or just looking back…

Suddenly I was terribly scared for her. It was almost some physical fear. Perhaps it was irrational, like panic, I don’t know… 

I did not want anything bad to happen to her. I did not want the US nukes start falling all around her. I did not want her to end up like those poor Vietnamese or Iraqi or Afghan children, victims of the Western barbarism; of the chemical weapons, depleted uranium, or cluster bombs. I did not want her to starve because of some insane sanctions pushed through the UN by spiteful maniacs who simply hate “the Others”.

And so, I produced a short film, about what I saw in North Korea. A film that I made for, dedicated to, that little girl at the roller-skating ring in Pyongyang.

When I was filming, collecting footage in DPRK, the war, an attack from the West or from Japan or South Korea, looked possible, almost likely.

Watch the short film below:

When, some time later, I was editing, in Beirut, with a Lebanese editor, US President Donald Trump was threatening to “take care of the North Korea”. What he meant was clear. Trump is a ‘honest man’; honest in a mafia-style way. In the film I call him ‘a manager’. He may not be an Einstein, but he usually says what he means, at each given moment. You know, again, the Yakuza-style.

Now when I am releasing this humble work of mine, things look brighter after the Singapore Summit, although I really do not trust the West, after more than 500 years of barbaric colonialist wars and crusades. The ‘manager’ is perhaps honest when he says that now he likes President Kim, but then again, tomorrow he could be ‘honest’ again, declaring that he changed him mind and wants to break his arm.

Time to hurry, I feel. Time to hurry and to show to as many people as possible, how beautiful North Korea is, and how dignified its people are.

*

I can “sell” footage or “sell rights” and make some money for my other internationalist projects, but the whole thing would get delayed, and only limited number of people would see it in such case.

By releasing it like this, the film will make nothing, zero, but I guess it is my duty to do it this way. Hopefully, the film, or ‘a poem’, will be seen by many and the pressure on the West and on Japan will grow – pressure to stop intimidation of the people who already suffered so tremendously much!

If someone wants to support my films, including my works in progress (two big documentary films I am working on right now, one about Afghanistan after almost two decades of the NATO occupation, another about almost total environmental destruction in Kalimantan/Borneo), it can be done HERE. But no pressure. Just enjoy this particular film and other films that I will be soon and gradually releasing.

*

In the meantime, North Korea is standing.

While the West is calculating, what to do next. I don’t have a good feeling about all this. I hope I am wrong. I hope this is just a beginning of the serious peace process…

But I guess I have seen too many ruins of the cities, of countries and entire continents. Most of them were bombed, reduced to rubble after various ‘peace processes’. Mostly the bombs and missiles began flying after some sound agreements were reached and signed.

I don’t want the same thing to happen to North Korea. I don’t want this girl whom I spotted at the roller-skating ring, to vanish.

What I did this time is not much, but it is something. In this dangerous situation, almost everything counts. Let’s all do “something”, even if it is just a tiny bit. Rain is made of water drops, but it can stop a big fire. This time let us try to stop the madness by tiny drops of sanity and tenderness.

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US Maximalist Stance on Denuclearization Holds Korean Peace Process Hostage

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Featured image; President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, walk together to their one-on-one bilateral meeting, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at the Capella Hotel in Singapore. (Official White House Photo by Stephanie Chasez)

For the first time since the Singapore summit, a shadow of doubt has been cast over the Korean peace process. Its source is the United States’ unyielding demand for complete North Korean nuclear disarmament before ending the Korean War and prior to allowing the sanctions exemptions needed for carrying out North-South peace initiatives.

The US’ unwillingness to take a more conciliatory approach on these two issues stems from the misguided conviction among senior Trump administration officials that maximum pressure was the key to bringing Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table in the first place. These officials believe declaring the end of the war would eliminate the leverage of a military option, while sanctions exemptions would weaken the economic pressure put on North Korea, creating an environment in which their nuclear weapons arsenal is tacitly accepted.

On the contrary, the administration’s reversion to a hardline approach has exhausted the momentum provided by the Singapore summit, and their reluctance to declare an end to the war as a confidence-building measure threatens to stall the peace process completely.

More than ever, the burden rests on the shoulders of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to drive negotiations forward by pushing back against Washington’s uncompromising position. However, given the intractable nature of the current impasse, if Moon fails to convince the Trump administration to soften its stance, his government will eventually be forced to make an existential decision about South Korea’s future role in Northeast Asia.

Mike Pompeo’s Visit to Pyongyang and the US Recommitment to Maximum Pressure

After the Singapore summit, President Trump was much-maligned in the media and by his political opposition in Washington for being too soft on North Korea. On the contrary, the US government’s surprising willingness to build trust with the North by canceling provocative military drills was one of the major reasons Singapore was a success. It fostered hope on both sides of the Korean Peninsula that peace might be given a chance after all.

As a result, there was much anticipation leading up to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in early July. As the first significant follow-up in negotiations since Singapore, his trip was expected to inject further momentum into the peace process, but ultimately served to do the exact opposite – a fact revealed through a North Korean Foreign Ministry missive following the meeting.

Much was made of the term “gangster-like” used in the North Korean statement when describing Pompeo’s negotiations posture, but as a whole, their dispatch was an expression of grave disappointment (“Our hopes and expectations were so naive as to be gullible”) and a warning that his hardline approach would not be conducive to successful diplomacy in the long term.

The statement described Pompeo’s position as “unilateral…denuclearization demands, calling for [complete, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament],” while offering nothing of substance in terms of how to carry out the Singapore agreement (primarily, improving US-NK relations, establishing a peace regime, and working towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula). Their account was corroborated by a report stating Pompeo was only interested in discussing three items at the meeting: “A full declaration of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, a timeline for dismantling the nuclear program, and an unfulfilled promise made by Kim at the summit,” the latter of which was unspecified.

It was surprising to hear North Korea react in such a negative way after Pompeo described the meeting as “successful” upon his return to Washington, but the most significant revelation from the dispatch was that the US had either changed its attitude on the importance of concessions, or had always considered the temporary cancellation of military drills to be the solitary carrot it was willing to offer the North in this process.

More specifically, it became apparent the US intends to use the potential of a peace agreement as a future reward for North Korea carrying out complete nuclear disarmament, rather than as the security bedrock needed to begin the long process of denuclearization.

US officials confirmed their new hardline position through comments made in New York on July 20thafter a UN Security Council briefing on the Korean Peninsula co-hosted by a South Korean delegation. They accused North Korea of violating fuel import sanctions 89 times throughout the first five months of 2018 and appealed for Russia and China to maintain their commitment to the UN sanctions regime, adding that the violations are ongoing. “When sanctions are not enforced, the prospects for successful denuclearization are diminished,” Pompeo said (failing to note the seemingly contradictory fact that the great progress made in US-North Korean relations this year took place while these alleged violations were occurring).

Regarding concession to the North, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley added,

“What we continue to reiterate is we can’t do one thing until we see North Korea respond to their promise to denuclearize. We have to see some sort of action.”

Yeonhap News then sought clarification with a US official on July 23rdregarding the Trump administration’s position on declaring an end to the Korean War.

“Peace on the Korean Peninsula is a goal shared by the world,” the official responded. “However, the international community has repeatedly made clear it will not accept a nuclear-armed [North Korea]. As we have stated before, we are committed to building a peace mechanism with the goal of replacing the Armistice agreement when North Korea has denuclearized.”(Emphasis added.)

The US has therefore reversed the order of priorities indicated in the Singapore declaration. The conciliatory approach taken by Trump at the summit has devolved into a unilateral demand for North Korean nuclear disarmament prior to any security or economic incentives from Washington – a complete non-starter for North Korea given the US’ history of regime change and deceit around the world. If the Trump administration does not back down from this position, negotiations will go nowhere and Kim Jong-un will be forced to seek alternative means to reintegrate North Korea into the global economy, a process that is already beginning.

As China Resumes Economic Cooperation with the North, US Denies South Korea Sanctions Exemptions

The US has already lost its grip on maximum economic pressure, despite its insistence that UN Security Council members hold the line on sanctions. In addition to Russia and China putting on holdthe UN Security Council motion to halt all petroleum transfers to North Korea, the Chinese government has committed roughly $89 million dollars to complete a bridge connecting Liaoning Province with North Korea across the Yalu River.

The New Yalu River Bridge project was suspended in 2014 after China tightened the screws on North Korea in response to nuclear weapons testing. Its resumption is a clear violation of UN sanctions and indicates China’s intent to push forward with economic projects in the North. The governor of Liaoning Province also stated recently, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that economic integration with North Korea is necessary to make up for harm done by the Trump administration’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, though the Moon administration has long shown public support for maintaining the entire sanctions arsenal until complete North Korean denuclearization, a report out of South Korea on July 22nd revealed that Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa requested partial sanctions exemptions during the UN Security Council briefing last week. This suggests their united front with Washington on the issue is a public facade.

“Foreign Minister Kang emphasized the need for limited sanctions exemptions in specific requested areas to enable cooperation on points of discussion with North Korea,” the report stated.

Kang also stressed that “the UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea are a roadblock to implementing the measures agreed upon through the Panmunjom Declaration and the various levels of North-South negotiations.” (Translated from original Korean by author.)

Kang publicly downplayed the significance of the request (which was denied by the White House anyway) upon her return to South Korea. However, Seoul’s public position has never really made sense because the maximum application of sanctions has, as Kang privately indicated, prevented the progress of such projects as cooperative reforestation and joint railway development from moving beyond the planning stages. This is due to the inability to bring necessary materials into North Korea. Meanwhile, North Korean children continue to die of completely curable diseases due to dirty water and malnutrition, issues that would be much easier to address once certain sanctions are removed.

Kang’s request also came after increasing North Korean criticism that the South is taking too long to carry out cross-border initiatives. North Korean state media most recently condemned Moon Jae-in’s government for kowtowing to Washington in negotiations and urged South Korea to change the Trump administration’s position on ending the war.

To Save the Peace Process, Moon Must Push Back on Hardline US Policies

The peace process was a Korean effort from the beginning, one that the United States merely joined in on. In spite of this, US involvement is crucial to enable the removal of sanctions holding back inter-Korean cooperation. Unfortunately, the US is demanding North Korean nuclear disarmament before peace and sanctions removal of any kind, conditions to which North Korea cannot possibly accede. To resolve this catch-22 situation, President Trump needs to reverse course back to the conciliatory approach that made the Singapore summit a success. Given that his senior officials seem ideologically opposed to doing so, the burden rests on President Moon to convince him.

Specifically, Moon must push the Trump administration to back off its insistence on complete nuclear disarmament prior to declaring the end of the Korean War. This would provide the modicum of confidence in Washington’s motives that North Korea needs to begin denuclearization. It must also insist that the end of the war be accompanied by specific sanctions exemptions, enabling the two Koreas to move forward with cooperative initiatives and thereby open up a separate, Korean-only peace process that is not directly impacted by the ups and downs of denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korean governments.

Moon has long expressed the need for a declaration ending the Korean War and, during a recent visit to Singapore, set the end of 2018 as a target date. This best-case-scenario would require nudging the US toward a softened negotiations stance by September, when it is hoped the three parties will meet during the UN General Assembly.

To make this more palatable for Washington, the Moon administration is reportedly trying to convince the US that ending the war will require little more than a “‘political declaration’ [without] legal or institutional force.” While this alone may seem too weak for North Korea, supplementary security guarantees by China and Russia could sweeten the pot.

While in Singapore, the South Korean president noted the importance of the international community joining “efforts for North Korea’s regime security,” adding that, “the corresponding measures North Korea is demanding from the US aren’t the kind of lifting of sanctions or economic compensation it has called for in the past, but an end to hostile relations and the building of trust.” Indeed, during his visit to Moscow in June, a first for a South Korean president in two decades, Moon discussed Northeast Asian security, the peace process and economic opportunities with Russian President Vladimir Putin – perhaps an indication he is rallying support for such an approach.

For its part, North Korea continues to make overtures to Washington in spite of the US’ about-face on diplomacy. Most recently, it dismantled a site for testing ballistic missiles at some point over the last two weeks (after the failed Pompeo meeting). This was termed a “significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea” by 38 North, a leading website for analysis on North Korea.

Kim Jong-un therefore clearly remains committed to diplomacy despite US inflexibility, at least for the time being. His enthusiasm likely won’t last forever, though; if Moon cannot convince the Trump administration to retract its demand for complete denuclearization prior to some form of peace agreement, the negotiations will inevitably pass their expiry date.

South Korea’s Role as an Agent of Influence in Northeast Asia at Stake

It is foolhardy to predict anything in the age of Trump. The US president’s willingness to go against Washington norms – sporadically for the sake of diplomacy and peace – may be Moon’s best hope in pushing through the Washington consensus for maximum pressure. However, a plethora of historical examples suggest the US imperial system is philosophically and financially invested in conflict and dominance rather than diplomacy when dealing with adversarial states. This is especially true in the case of North Korea, a country that has been on the hit list for decades.

President Moon may eventually be forced to make a decision about the fate of his country: whether or not South Korea should remain a vassal of the United States that is cut off from its northern half and the vast economic opportunities that physically reconnecting with the Asian continent represents.

There is no way to know if the current South Korean administration is bold enough to attempt a departure from the American orbit to achieve peace with North Korea, or what that process would even entail. But as China reintegrates its economy with the North, the bottom line is that South Korea may be completely left behind if Moon fails to influence the Trump administration or refuses to consider more drastic measures to continue the pursuit of Korean peace.

Posted in USAComments Off on US Maximalist Stance on Denuclearization Holds Korean Peace Process Hostage

This is Who We Really Are: Americans and ‘Israelis’ Must Come to Terms With Reality

NOVANEWS
DALE SPRUSANSKY

Native American women participate in a march in San Diego, CA to protest the separation of children from their immigrant parents by U.S. officials, June 23, 2018. (DAVID MCNEW/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2018, pp. 40-41, 53

Special Report

By Dale Sprusansky

“THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE.” It’s a refrain that has been repeated ad nauseam by professional commentators and everyday Americans alike in response to the Trump administration’s decision to separate undocumented immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Such a retort to the indecency of separating families is natural, as no respectable person wants to be identified with a collective group—be it national or otherwise—that commits such an act.

This distancing of one’s self from cruelty, however, is more about personal assuagement than it is about collective reckoning. Perhaps the correct response to injustices carried out within our society is “this is who we are, but this is not who I am.” Such a reframing forces one to come to terms with the reality around them, and opens a window into both the agency and responsibilities of individuals who are appalled by the behavior of their country or group.

The boldest and most transcendent individuals throughout human history inserted rather than extracted themselves from the evildoings of their time. The likes of Bartolomé de las Casas (a 16th century priest who denounced the genocidal acts of his peers toward the indigenous peoples of the West Indies), Harriet Beecher Stowe (a 19th century American author and abolitionist whose book Uncle Tom’s Cabin directly challenged the cruelty of slavery) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor who was executed for his persistent public denouncements of Nazism), did not simply view the injustices that surrounded them as something external. Although not personally killers of the indigenous, slaveholders, or persecutors of Jews, they nevertheless internalized these realities and understood that their societies were indeed perpetrators of these things.

Such is the duty of today’s Americans and Israelis. Both countries are steeped in lofty national myths that are in direct confrontation with their actual policies and actions. Americans define themselves by the idyllic words of the Declaration of Independence and the Statue of Liberty. Israelis extol their country as a bastion of democracy and liberty in a region plagued by authoritarianism and repression. Yet, America is the land of the Muslim ban and the Abu Ghraib scandal. Israel arrests young Palestinian children in overnight raids and desperate African asylum seekers. 

The good news is that confronting contradictions does not require loathing one’s country or group. History does not look at de las Casas as a self-hating Catholic, but as a champion of the faith’s deepest truths. Stowe and countless other abolitionists and civil rights champions are seen as bold challengers of a racist status quo that made a mockery of the country’s high moral ideals.

While the challenges of the past remind us of our dark collective tendencies toward exclusion, they also remind us that whenever these racist or xenophobic societal cancers reemerge, they can be conquered.

THE AMERICAN CHALLENGE

This dual message of reconciling with the dark, deep truths of what America is and maintaining hope in the collective power of people of goodwill was the crux of a powerful speech delivered by Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ, at the June 30 “Families Belong Together” rally in Washington, DC.

“We have been here before. I know it feels brand new, but it’s not. We have been here before,” Blackmon said, as she began her fiery speech. She recalled America’s history of slavery and segregation, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the genocide of the country’s indigenous peoples and the ongoing mass incarceration of black youth. All these policies, she noted, separated children from their families. Trump’s policy at the border is thus nothing new.

“What we are witnessing at our borders with black and brown families today is not who America has become, this is who America has always been,” she continued. “This has been this nation’s response whenever its false God of whiteness is threatened,” she said, identifying the central force—racism—behind this country’s most morally decrepit moments.

Naming the rooted evil of racism, Blackmon turned to a hopeful message. “Just as all those other wrong racist decisions have been overturned, this one will be as well,” she assured her audience. Supreme Court rulings that denied citizenship to slaves (Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857) and endorsed the notion of separate but equal (Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896) are now seen as moral abominations, she noted.

The urgent, but ultimately hopeful, tone of Blackmon’s speech was given credence by the tens of thousands of people who turned out in the scorching summer heat to protest the separation of families. The marches that took place around the country on that Saturday are a testament to the fact that a critical mass of Americans are  committed to defeating the latest incursion of racism into this country’s history.

History shows those who promulgate hate and fear cannot ultimately triumph, as the emptiness of their lies are eventually exposed. Just as there are dark strains through our nation’s history, as well as all of human history, there are persistently upright strains that combat hate whenever it arises. And as Blackmon noted, for people of faith, there is also the reality of divine justice that ought to give hope to the oppressed and rattle the powerful. “God, and not the empire, has the last word in human history,” she said. “There is a higher law than that made by man…and that law is love, my friends.”

sprusansky02x800

African migrants, with white paint on their faces,  outside the Embassy of Rwanda in the Israeli city of ­Herzliya, Feb. 7, 2018, demonstrate against the Israeli government’s plan to forcibly deport African refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda. Israel cancelled the arrangement in April after receiving ­international rebuke for the plan. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

ISRAEL’S DEEP-ROOTED IDEOLOGY

“We must always remember that this is not as much about safe immigration policy as it is about separatist ideology.” As Rev. Blackmon uttered these words, my initial association was with Israeli, not U.S. policy. It is Israel, after all, that many American fans of ethnic separation look to for inspiration. President Donald Trump has praised Israel’s separation walls. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who helped implement the policy of separating families, visited Israel in June and praised the country’s skills at erecting barriers. “Border security is national security. Our Israeli partners know that better than anyone,” she said following her trip to Israel’s wall in the Sinai.

There can be little doubt that Israel’s walls along the Sinai, West Bank and Gaza Strip, serve as a physical manifestation of the country’s desire to keep non-Jews out. Leaders of the self-professed Jewish state regularly speak of the “demographic threat” posed by Palestinians. This is why Palestinians displaced by fighting in 1948 and 1967 are denied the right of return to their homes within the borders of modern Israel. It’s why Israel has revoked the residency of 14,595 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem since 1967, while permitting Jews to create illegal settlements in the city. It’s the country’s separatist ideology that inclined 52 percent of Israelis polled in 2012 to agree with the statement that African migrants are “a cancer in the body” of the country.

Despite these, and many other moral shortcomings, which date back to the state’s founding 70 years ago, Israel and its supporters regularly boast of the country’s moral uprightness.

As journalist Gregg Carlstrom notes in his new book How Long Will Israel Survive?: The Threat From Within, available from Middle East Books and More, even those who are unafraid to critique Israel often fail to recognize how deeply rooted division and exclusion are to the fabric of the country. He points out that many “liberal Zionists” in the diaspora criticize particular policies, such as the occupation of Palestinian land, claiming that they are in conflict with Israeli values. Such people believe that “the alarming trends in Israeli society are blips, aberrations that can be easily undone,” Carlstrom notes.

“Their initial premise, however, is an idealized Israel,” he writes. “The diaspora, in other words, is engaged in self-projection. It views Israel as a reflection of itself: liberal, moral, committed to social justice. And thus the occupation of 1967 is viewed as a singularly corrupting force, a misstep that pulled Israel away from its true path.”

The reality, Carlstrom contends, is that Israel’s moral issues run to its very core. “The problems that alarm the ‘liberal Zionist’ intelligentsia…are features, not bugs. They are either the results of conscious government decisions…or they are inevitable outgrowths of Zionism itself.”

He notes that the first illegal settlements were built during the governance of the liberal Labor party, that the Palestinian minority in Israel lived under martial law for nearly two decades and that even Mizrahi, Sephardic and ultra-Orthodox Jews have faced discrimination since the country’s founding. “The idealized past was hardly ideal, at least for Israelis outside of the secular Ashkenazi elite,” he writes.

As in the U.S., some Israeli leaders have spoken out against what they see as a growing tide of racism and hatred. “This is not the Likud party I joined,” former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon warned during the press conference announcing his resignation in 2016. “Unfortunately, Israel and the Likud party were taken over by extremist and dangerous elements,” he said.

Such warnings help raise attention to worrisome trends, but they also fail to address foundational realities. Israel didn’t just become an ethno-sectarian state under Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud government, and the U.S. didn’t suddenly become racist under Donald Trump. Deep-seeded issues in each country have developed and metastasized over time to deliver the current reality.

Like cancer, societal evils are difficult to eradicate. The U.S., Israel and every nation on earth would be wise to conduct an honest examination of who they actually are vs. who they aspire or imagine themselves to be. Every country has its contradictions; no country is either completely pure or hopelessly corrupt. It’s the persistent striving of the just, those who confront hate as it reemerges from age to age, that keeps the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice.

Be it standing up for the dignity of immigrants and asylum seekers entering the U.S. or the rights of Palestinians to live with dignity, we must not tire of resisting hate and promoting unity. Yes, we must look at the current reality and say “this is who we are.” What we become, however, is entirely in our hands.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, UKComments Off on This is Who We Really Are: Americans and ‘Israelis’ Must Come to Terms With Reality

The Colonization of Palestine: Rethinking the Term “Israeli Occupation”

NOVANEWS
RAMZY BAROUD
Ultra-orthodox Jews watch Palestinian demonstrators during protests in the West Bank village of Bi’lin in front of the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit, Feb. 27, 2015. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2018, pp. 46-47

From the Diaspora

By Ramzy Baroud

JUNE 5, 2018 marked the 51st anniversary of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

But, unlike the massive popular mobilization that preceded the anniversary of the Nakba (the catastrophic destruction of Palestine in 1948) on May 15, the anniversary of the occupation hardly generated equal mobilization.

The unsurprising death of the “peace process” and the inevitable demise of the “two-state solution” has shifted the focus from ending the occupation per se, to the larger and more encompassing problem of Israel’s colonialism throughout Palestine.

The grassroots mobilization in Gaza and the West Bank, and among Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab Desert, are, once more, widening the Palestinian people’s sense of national aspirations. Thanks to the limited vision of the Palestinian leadership, those aspirations have, for decades, been confined to Gaza and West Bank.

In some sense, the “Israeli occupation” is no longer an occupation as per international standards and definitions. It is merely a phase of Zionist colonization of historic Palestine, a process that began over 100 years ago, and carries on to this date.

“The law of occupation is primarily motivated by humanitarian considerations; it is solely the facts on the ground that determine its application,” states the International Committee of the Red Cross website.

It is for practical purposes that we often utilize the term “occupation” with reference to Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land occupied after June 5, 1967. The term allows for the constant emphasis on humanitarian rules that are meant to govern Israel’s behavior as the occupying power.

However, Israel has already, and repeatedly, violated most conditions of what constitute an “occupation” from an international law perspective, as articulated in the 1907 Hague Regulations (articles 42-56) and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to these definitions, an “occupation” is a provisional phase, a temporary situation that is meant to end with the implementation of international law regarding that particular situation.

“Military occupation” is not the sovereignty of the occupier over the occupied; it cannot include transfer of citizens from the territories of the occupying power to occupied land; it cannot include ethnic cleansing; destruction of properties; collective punishment and annexation.

It is often argued that Israel is an occupier that has violated the rules of occupation as stated in international law.

This would have been the case a year, 2 or 5 years after the original occupation had taken place—but not 51 years later. Since then, the occupation has turned into long-term colonization.

An obvious proof is Israel’s annexation of occupied land, including the Syrian Golan Heights and Palestinian East Jerusalem, in the early 1980s. Those decisions had no regard for international law, humanitarian or any other.

Israeli politicians have, for years, openly debated the annexation of the West Bank, especially areas that are populated with illegal Jewish settlements, which are built contrary to international law.

Those hundreds of settlements that Israel has been building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are not meant as temporary structures.

Dividing the West Bank into three zones, areas A, B and C, each governed according to different political diktats and military rules, has little precedent in international law.

Israel argues that, contrary to international law, it is no longer an occupying power in Gaza; however, an Israeli land, maritime and aerial siege has been imposed on the Strip for over 11 years. With successive Israeli wars that have killed thousands, to a hermetic blockade that has pushed the Palestinian population to the brink of starvation, Gaza subsists in isolation.

Gaza is an “occupied territory” by name only, without any of the humanitarian rules applied. In a recent 10-week period alone, over 130 unarmed protesters, journalists and medics were killed and 13,000 wounded, yet the international community and law remain inept, unable to face or challenge Israeli leaders or to overpower equally cold-hearted American U.N. vetoes.

The Palestinian occupied territories have, long ago, crossed the line from being occupied to being colonized. But there are reasons that we are trapped in old definitions, leading among them is American political hegemony over the legal and political discourses pertaining to Palestine.

One of the main political and legal achievements of the Israeli war—which was carried out with full U.S. support—on several Arab countries in June 1967 is the redefining of the legal and political language on Palestine.

Prior to that war, the discussion was mostly dominated by such urgent issues as the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to go back to their homes and properties in historic Palestine.

The June war shifted the balance of power completely, and cemented America’s role as Israel’s main backer on the international stage.

Several U.N. Security Council resolutions were passed to delegitimize the Israeli occupation: UNSCR 242, UNSCR 338, and the less talked about but equally significant UNSCR 497.

242 of 1967 demanded “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces” from the territories it occupied in the June war. 338, which followed the war of 1973, accentuated and clarified that demand. Resolution 497 of 1981 was a response to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. It rendered such a move “null and void and without international legal effect.”

The same applied to the annexation of Jerusalem as to any colonial constructions or any Israeli attempts aimed at changing the legal status of the West Bank.

But Israel is operating with an entirely different mindset.

Considering that anywhere between 600,000 to 750,000 Israeli Jews now live in the “occupied territories,” and that the largest settlement of Modi’in Illit houses more than 64,000 Israeli Jews, one has to wonder what form of military occupation blue-print Israel is implementing, anyway?

Israel is a settler colonial project, which began when the Zionist movement aspired to build an exclusive homeland for Jews in Palestine, at the expense of the native inhabitants of that land in the 19th century.

Nothing has changed since. Only facades, legal definitions and political discourses. The truth is that Palestinians continue to suffer the consequences of Zionist colonialism and they will continue to carry that burden until that original sin is boldly confronted and justly remedied.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on The Colonization of Palestine: Rethinking the Term “Israeli Occupation”

Why Did Latin America Stop Standing up for Palestine?

NOVANEWS
CECILIA BAEZA

(L-r) Sara Netanyahu and her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, applaud as Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and his wife, Hilda Patricia Marroquin, open the Guatemalan Embassy in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018. Guatemala became the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States’ deeply controversial move, breaking with decades of international consensus. (RONEN ZVULUN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2018, pp. 44-45

Special Report

By Cecilia Baeza 

WHILE MOST OF THE WORLD rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, some Latin American leaders have supported it enthusiastically. This may come as a surprise to many; after all, the region has been vocal about its support for the Palestinian cause. All Latin American states, except for Colombia, Panama and Mexico, recognized the state of Palestine between 2008 and 2013.

But political realities in the region have changed. Paraguay recently became the third country to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the U.S. and Guatemala. Honduras may be next; last month, its congress passed a resolution urging its Foreign Ministry to carry out the move. And in December 2017, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right presidential candidate leading in Brazil’s most recent polls, stated that if elected he would follow Trump’s controversial decision.

Such developments signal a worrisome shift in support for the Palestinian cause and demonstrate a broader regional trend toward regressive politics.

Many observers are pointing to the fact that Latin America and Israel have ties that date back to 1948. Guatemala pioneered these relations with its immediate recognition of the Israeli state, and more than half of Latin American countries opened embassies in Jerusalem in the years that followed. Yet though Latin America was rather friendly toward Israel until 1967, afterward, relations changed.

For instance, in 1980, Israel’s adoption of a law proclaiming Jerusalem its “indivisible and eternal capital” led to a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv.

Nine Latin American states—Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela—immediately respected the demand. The Dominican Republic and Guatemala delayed until 1982, but ultimately implemented the resolution.

More recently, in 2014, as the Israeli offensive against Gaza’s population escalated and the international community stayed silent, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru issued strong statements of condemnation and recalled their ambassadors for consultation.

Regional support for relocating embassies to Jerusalem is linked to an alarming takeover of power by right-wing forces in the region and their need for U.S. approval. The right-wing governments of Guatemala and Honduras are facing serious political crises, for example, and desperately need Washington’s support.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been mired in a series of corruption and money laundering scandals since 2016, and is still under pressure to submit his resignation. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s recent re-election in November 2017 was plagued by widespread allegations of electoral fraud and corruption, as well as violence against protesters.

For Morales and Hernandez, moving their embassies to Jerusalem is not only a show of “goodwill” toward Trump, but an attempt to shift attention away from domestic troubles. It also shows a resurgence of servile subordination to U.S. interests—something most Latin American governments had managed to overcome in the 2000s.

The two leaders also have personal connections to Israel. Morales is an evangelical Christian, as are around 40 percent of Guatemalans, and as such he is a staunch Zionist. Hernandez, on the other hand, is a graduate of an outreach program administered by the Agency for International Development Cooperation under the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes—a billionaire who has also been accused of money laundering and drug smuggling—also has close ties with Israel. He is known to have close relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. One of Cartes’ campaign advisers in 2013, Ari Harow, also served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff.

Further, these three leaders came to power with the support of right-wing parties that have long-standing ties with the Israeli military industry. Israel sold weapons to and maintained excellent relations with the Paraguayan tyrant Alfredo Stroessner, a military general who ruled from 1954 to 1989. Cartes, the leader of the right-wing Colorado Party, which served as the political power base of the Stroessner dictatorship, has revived these military connections.

Similar ties were established in the late 1970s between the Guatemalan regime and Israel. A few years later, when Gen. Efrain Rios Montt staged a coup, it was reported that 300 Israeli military advisers aided him. Officers who participated in the Guatemalan civil war side by side with Montt, who was later convicted of genocide against indigenous communities, are now part of Morales’ party. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the Guatemalan president chose to go to Israel for his first official trip abroad.

Honduras, too, received significant military support from Israel during the 1980s, when the CIA-backed Contra uprising swept through the country. In 2016 it signed a new arms export deal with Israel, one of the largest in Latin America in recent years. Hernandez called it an historic deal that would strengthen the country’s security forces, unlike anything that came before it.

Admittedly, democracy is receding in Latin America, even in countries governed by left-wing parties, such as in Nicaragua and Venezuela. But there is something especially worrisome about this new generation of right-wing leaders in Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and elsewhere. They are reversing gains achieved by the civil society on indigenous and minority rights and re-introducing toxic racist rhetoric and policies—not that different from the Israeli ones.

Israel’s financial and military support for these right-wing powers spells nothing good for the people of Latin America.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, CUBA, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, VenezuelaComments Off on Why Did Latin America Stop Standing up for Palestine?

Another Lost Generation in Gaza

NOVANEWS
MOHAMMED OMER

Palestinian youths flash their passports as they wait to cross at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Nov. 20, 2017. Egypt opened the crossing for Ramadan in 2018 and promised to keep it open during the summer. Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza to all but essential humanitarian supplies in July 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2018, pp. 14-15

Gaza on the Ground

By Mohammed Omer

FOR 9-YEAR-OLD ANAS, standing at the wall in Rafah which separates Egypt from Gaza, there is no attainable world beyond. That world exists only in his dreams. He can go to school and come back home to play—but always in the shadow of this blockade, called the wall. There he can play soccer, as if it is his personal World Cup.

Anas is not alone in dreaming of a world beyond. An entire new generation of Gazans has grown up knowing only the 70-year-old open-air prison/refugee camp in which they are confined. The more than 2 million Palestinians who live there, collectively punished for decades, exist constantly on the edge of mental, physical and economic crisis, as the international children’s organization Save the Children has warned.

“A whole generation of children in Gaza is balancing on a knife edge where one more shock could have devastating life-long consequences,” Marcia Brophy, the organization’s senior health adviser, said in a statement.

Anas said he wakes up in fear every night as Israeli drones patrol the sky above. Like his parents and siblings, he never knows when the drones will fire missiles again to disrupt the life of Gaza’s captive civilians. His teacher worries that his fear-induced stress results in Anas suffering a lack of concentration and focus in school.

“Inside the classroom, he is in another world, but that is not uncommon—the majority of my school children show similar symptoms” said Umm Abdullah, Anas’ teacher in Gaza.

Save the Children surveyed 150 young adolescents, with a median age of 14, and 150 caregivers in Gaza. It found that 95 percent of the children it interviewed displayed symptoms such as feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression.

Many children in Gaza grew up experiencing three Israeli offensives, in 2008 to 2009, 2012, and 2014. Not surprisingly, these military conflicts leave deep wounds in most families, with relatives, neighbors and friends maimed, injured or killed, accompanied by massive destruction to Gaza’s infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. Anas’ school was hit in 2014.

The Save the Children survey found that 68 percent of Gaza’s children suffer from varying degrees of insomnia, with 78 percent saying the single biggest source of fear is the sound of Israeli warplanes. Every time Anas hears a drone overhead, his instinct is to hide. Even then, though, he says, “When I go under the bed, I can still hear it, and I am more afraid in the darkness.”

Anas is less fearful during the day, when he makes his way to school. There he is more used to the menacing presence of the drones buzzing overhead.

But daylight does not always bring relief. As 15-year-old Samar, interviewed in the Save the Children survey, said, “I have many horrible nightmares, and a constant fear of being targeted by a bomb, or being shelled, injured or killed. Sometimes during the day, I remember those nightmares.”

The children surveyed also showed signs of resilience, however, with 80 percent saying they could at least express their fears to families and friends, and 90 percent saying they felt supported by their parents. “Much of children’s security was related to a sense of stability that their families were able to offer, with more than 80 percent of the 150 children interviewed saying they did not feel safe being away from their parents,” said Dr. Marcia Brophy, a senior mental health adviser for Save the Children in the Middle East.

In times of war, however, teacher Umm Abdullah admits that “I have difficulty finding peace within myself, because I am surrounded by war, and I can’t hide the constant fear and anticipation of the next attack.”

The 12-year blockade has severely diminished the quality of life in Gaza, where youth unemployment now stands at 60 percent and poverty levels are up from 30 percent to a current 53 percent. The Gaza economy continues to collapse. According to Abu Salaman Al Mughani, mukhtar of Gaza, “The majority of Gaza merchants are in jail in Gaza, because they cannot pay their debts under blockade conditions.”

According to a recent World Bank statement, “The current market in Gaza is not able to offer jobs and incomes, leaving a large population in despair, particularly the youth. Gaza’s exports are a fraction of their pre-blockade level, and the manufacturing sector has shrunk by as much as 60 percent over the last 20 years. The economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world. Minor changes to the restrictive system currently in place will not be sufficient. Proposed projects to increase the supply of water and electricity are extremely welcome, but unless there is an opportunity to boost incomes through expanding trade, the sustainability of these investments will be in doubt.”

In June, the United States vetoed a Kuwait-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed at least 132 Palestinians, including 14 children, and wounded more than 13,000 during the Great March of Return, the weeks-long peaceful protests near the fence separating Gaza from Israel. (See June/July 2018 Washington Report, p. 10.)

Save the Children’s research took place prior to the Great March.

While no one knows what the future holds in store for these children, the report found that “the last 10 years have seen families face a host of difficulties and uncertainties in Gaza. The Israeli blockade, as well as three conflicts, has put enormous strain on the economy and key services.”

The tragic result is that, like health care, basic human rights have become a rarity, and a luxury, in blockaded Gaza.

——————————————-

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Another Lost Generation in Gaza

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