Archive | January 1st, 2020

Christianity meltdown in its own birthplace? Western churches ignore multiple warnings

Palestinian Christians
By Stuart Littlewood

Ten years ago a group of Christian Palestinians issued “a cry of hope in the absence of all hope”, reflecting their country’s decades of suffering under brutal Israeli occupation. They said they hadreached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people because international decision-makers contented themselves with “managing” the crisis rather than solving it.

The situation was, and still is, destroying human life and that must surely be of concern to the church. “We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the churches around the world.”

Questions were repeatedly asked but never answered: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? And what is the worldwide church doing about this?

What exactly is the problem?

The Kairos document included a long list of key issues which described the appalling situation. This is a bullet-point summary:

  • Talk about a Middle East peace process remains just that: talk. In the meantime the people of the Holy Land have to put up with Israel’s brutal military occupation and everything that flows from it.
  • The “apartheid” wall erected by Israel on Palestinian territory has separated towns and villages and turned them into scattered prison cantons. Gaza continues to live in inhuman conditions, under permanent blockade and cut off from the other Palestinian territories.
  • Israeli squatter-settlements blight the land and steal natural resources, including water and agriculture, depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and constituting an obstacle to any political solution.
  • Reality is the daily humiliation at the military checkpoints, as Palestinians make their way to work, school or hospital.
  • Reality is the separation of families especially where one of the spouses does not have an Israeli identity card.
  • Religious liberty is severely restricted. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza on the pretext of security. Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during religious festivals. Some Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem.
  • Refugees are also part of the reality. Most of them still live in camps in difficult circumstances, waiting for their right of return, generation after generation.
  • The thousands of prisoners who are languishing in Israeli prisons are part of Palestine’s reality. When will they have their freedom?
  • Jerusalem, the Holy City, continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christian and Muslim. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means losing their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated.
  • Israeli contempt for international law and UN resolutions is central to the reality. The Arab world and the international community are paralysed despite critical reports by local and international human rights’ organisations.
  • Palestinians within the State of Israel suffer discrimination. They too are waiting for equal rights that never come.
  • Emigration is another reality. The likelihood of peace or freedom is so slim that it pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate. Thus the land is deprived of its most important resource – educated youth.
  • Israel claims its actions are necessary for self-defence, using collective punishment and many other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians.
  • Palestinians have tried negotiating but that didn’t advance the peace process.
  • Some political parties opted for armed resistance, but Israel used it to accuse the Palestinians of terrorism and distorted the real nature of the conflict, pretending it is an Israeli war against terror when it’s actually an illegal Israeli occupation met by lawful resistance. The roots of “terrorism” are in the injustice and evil of the occupation. The people of Israel are urged to become partners in peace and abandon the cycle of endless violence.
  • Biblical promises are interpreted in such a way as to deny Palestinians their rights and to threaten their very existence in their own homeland. Those theologians must reflect deeper on the word of God and revise their interpretations.
  • Palestinians’ connectedness to this land is a natural right. Yet they are regarded by Israel as enemies for wishing to live as free people in their own land.
  • They declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity and that any distortion of the Bible or faith or history that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teaching.
  • High-sounding initiatives, conferences, visits and negotiations have changed nothing. The Israeli attitude, refusing any solution, leaves no reason to suppose there’ll be an improvement anytime soon.
  • The Israeli occupation is an evil that must be removed. Responsibility for this rests first with the Palestinians suffering the occupation. It lies also with the international community because international law regulates relations between peoples today. But ultimately the perpetrators of this injustice are responsible; they must free themselves from the evil that is in them.
  • Christian resistance is a right and a duty. But it is resistance with love and must find ways that engage the humanity of the enemy.
  • And Palestinian Christians choose to resist peacefully. Civil society, as well as international organisations, non-governmental organisations and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in disinvestment and to boycott everything produced by the occupation.
  • Palestinians ask their Muslims brothers to reject fanaticism and extremism. And they say to the world that Muslims are not to be stereotyped as the enemy nor caricatured as terrorists but rather to be lived with in peace and engaged with in dialogue.
  • They say to the Jews that they can organise their political life, with all its complexity, once the occupation is ended and justice is done. It is not permitted to hate, or to kill or be killed. The culture of love is the culture of accepting others.
  • They say to the churches of the world, please review fundamentalist attitudes and stop theological cover-ups that perpetuate the occupation and the injustice. They call on world churches to tell the unvarnished truth about the Israeli occupation. They ask: Are you able to help us get our freedom back?
  • Palestinians see boycott and disinvestment as non-violent tools for bringing about justice, peace and security.
  • And they say to the international community, end your “double standards” and implement the international resolutions intended to resolve the Israel-Palestine problem, otherwise we’ll all find ourselves vulnerable to the law of the jungle. Economic sanctions and boycott against Israel are now necessary if a just and definitive peace is to be reached and order restored to the region.

It’s a serious grumble-sheet which perfectly matches my own observations during visits there.

“Beyond urgent”

Eight years later, in 2017, came an Open Letter from Christian Palestinians to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. It was a heart-rending cry for help from the National Coalition of Christian Organisations in Palestine (NCCOP) saying the situation for Palestinians was “beyond urgent”. churches there were asking churches everywhere to call things as they are… to tell the awful truth: that is, to recognise that Israel is an apartheid state in terms of international law and the UN reports which said so.

They were concerned that states and churches were still dealing with Israel on a business-as-usual basis and ignoring the criminal reality of the military occupation.

After all, the world’s churches had come together in opposition to apartheid in South Africa and helped to defeat it. Why hadn’t they done the same in Palestine?

And they asked the World Council of Churches to condemn the Balfour Declaration as unjust and prod the UK into apologising and compensating the Palestinian people for their losses.

Here is the link to the actual document. Its powerful message should have made genuine churchmen sit up. It reminded everyone that Palestinians were still suffering from 100 years of oppression, beginning with “the unjust and unlawful Balfour Declaration, intensified through the Nakba [ethnic cleansing and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948]and the influx of refugees, followed by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza and the fragmentation of our people and our land through policies of isolation and confiscation of land, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall.

“We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise.” It made the point that some churches and some Christian leaders actually supported the establishment of a colonial state on Palestinian land, disregarding the fact that the Palestinian people had lived there for centuries and were now expected to pay a hefty price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Now a third Red Alert “standing on the cliff-edge looking into an abyss”

Meeting in Bethlehem last month on the 10th anniversary of their first warning document, Kairos Palestine reached out to the world’s churches yet again, saying that life in Palestine had deteriorated even further under another decade of illegal occupation.

  • “The oppression is more aggressive and brutal.”
  • “Our imprisoned and besieged sisters and brothers in Gaza, non-violently gathered for the March of Return, were the targets of a bloody and deadly response.”
  • “Settlements continue to expand.”
  • “Threats to annex the Jordan Valley and the settlements themselves grow without a word of condemnation from the major powers.”
  • “We are experiencing the continued dispossession of our land, our freedom and our human rights.”
  • “Add to this, three more appalling developments:

– US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;

– the US secretary of state’s announcement that the US government no longer deems West Bank settlements to be “inconsistent with international law”;

– and the State of Israel’s recent adoption of their Nation-State Law which clearly reveals that de facto apartheid has become de jure apartheid.”

  • “The failure of the peace process is further evidence that the current status quo is unsustainable.”

The statement went on: “There are still many who use the Bible to justify the occupation and who unquestioningly support the State of Israel. And, for the most part, the global church is failing us. We are standing as if on the edge of a cliff, looking into an abyss.”

Their 2009 commitments have not changed. Sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem must be shared. They call again for us to take action and defend the rights of Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with them, and to support all forms of creative and non-violent resistance, including BDS. We are to reject attempts to label this resistance anti-Semitic. Other points emphasised include:

  • Theological arguments seeking to justify the privilege of one people over another must be condemned;
  • Israel is an apartheid state in terms of international law, especially after passing its Nation State legislation, and we must insist that no-one has exclusive claims to any land because of religion, race and/or ethnicity.
  • We should encourage church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian communities through the Palestinian tourism sector and not bow to the narratives and itineraries promoted by the Israeli government and used as an instrument of the occupation.

“This is no time for shallow diplomacy”

The essential point of their 2017 Open Letter was that time had run out: it was beyond urgent. And it ended with these chilling words: “This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.” So did the efforts of these Palestinian clergy, Christ’s front-line troops who daily face hostility, abuse and physical danger, finally get through to our comfy Holy Joes here? Has the penny dropped that the wellspring of their faith, the birthplace of Jesus, is being stolen and may be lost for ever if Israel gets its way?

How has the World Council of Churches responded to those urgent pleas from Palestine? And did the message percolate down through the ranks? And have our spiritual leaders, those upstanding “men of the cloth”, been mobilising their troops?

They promised to study and analyse. “As we at the WCC consider our plans for 2018 and beyond, we want churches in Palestine to know that their perspective is heard and it is vitally important,” said the WCC’s general secretary. “We will continue with the same passionate spirit to work on specific objectives, strategies and partners for advocacy to end the occupation and to work for just peace in Palestine and Israel.”

The WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs had been asked to contribute a thorough analysis of the changing political landscapes and dynamics in the Holy Land with an eye to developing a more specific advocacy strategy that works through nations and organisations with significant influence.

The WCC also planned to “explore theological reflections, studies and projects that will bring a perspective on just peace in the Holy Land from all parts of the world”, and strengthen communication about the situation in Palestine so that it can “help churches and other ecumenical partners address their constituencies and governments in a more systematic way”. This includes developing guiding principles for responsible pilgrimages of justice and peace to the Holy Land.

And how is all this work coming along? Will the Palestinian churches, facing impasse and deadlock for so long, be impressed? They had pleaded: “We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy, Christians.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s 2019 Ecumenical Christmas Letter doesn’t mention the dire situation in Palestine or the foul conditions in Bethlehem. Nor does his Christmas Day sermon. No sense of urgency there, then.

However, Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had this to say:

It is estimated that the Christian community of Gaza numbers around 800, amongst a population of 2 million, living in an area the size of the island of Jura. Many of Gaza’s Christians have family members living in Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. The Church of Scotland affirms the right of the indigenous Christian community of Gaza to be able to visit their holy sites. It therefore calls on Israel to grant permission so that they may be able to visit and worship freely during this special season of the Christian year.

Just as with so many families around the world who take the chance of this season to meet and spend time together, so it is a very special opportunity for those from Gaza to meet with their wider family members, to have time together, and an opportunity to celebrate the coming of the Christ as a child in Bethlehem. On behalf of the Church of Scotland, I pray that our brothers and sisters will have such an opportunity this year and urge the government of Israel to grant the necessary permits.

So his mind is on the job.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, said:

I think of the shepherd fields of Bethlehem, dusty and rocky, in the shadow of the prosperous and well-supplied Israeli settlements.

I think of millions of children born into searing poverty, particularly those living in refugee camps and those without basic amenities. I think about “the coming of our God” who chose similar circumstances for his taking up the flesh of our humanity.

Pope Francis went as far as saying that Christmas festivities could seem a charade.

We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes, all decked out, while the world continues to wage war… The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war.

These are fine words. But they tip-toe around the main issues. And where is the global action? Where is the leadership in this fightback?

Will there actually be a fightback?

The power of hope

Christianity sometimes has trouble telling right from wrong and doing something about it. The Holy Land is a case in point. Evil reigns there. Christianity across the world cowers. What would Christ say to that?

I know what Michel Sabbah says. He is a former Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, a courageous man who’s on the spot and one of the great heroes of the struggle.

The current situation is hopeless. In reality, there are no signs of hope at all for the Palestinian people. In spite of that, we hope.

We hope because we are Christians, and God is present.
We hope because we believe in the fundamental goodness of the human being, Israeli and Palestinian. Human goodness will prevail at the end upon the human power of evil.

We hope because Palestinians are persevering in claiming their rights.
It is a source of hope that we never gave up…

We hope because among Israelis, there are people who are trying to work with Palestinians for what is right. And there are an increasing number of movements for peace, strong in will…

If we had no hope we would not live. Hope is life, and history gives us hope. What is right will prevail.

Let’s hit the reset button!

Christians who cannot grasp what is really going on out there, and who don’t understand what’s needed to stop it, might find Robert Cohen’s excellent article “Brace Yourselves for Costly Palestinian Solidarity” helpful in pointing towards proper, meaningful action.

Central to the problem is the so-called Ecumenical Deal, a reluctance to question Jewish support for Israel for fear of unpicking decades of interfaith reconciliation following the holocaust.  We appear to have cast ourselves in the self-defeating role of repenting for age-old Christian anti-Jewishness. Breaking out of it and criticising Israel would be seen as a re-emergence of that anti-Jewishness. Does anyone inside or outside the bubble of the church seriously buy into this repentance stuff?

Besides, any re-emergence of anti-Jewishness is more likely to be caused by continuing failure on the part of Jewish leaders to condemn the cruel policies of the Israeli regime, aka “the Jewish State”, against Christian and Muslim communities. 

Christians in Palestine, says Cohen, despair of our church leaders’ endless hiding behind the cover of political neutrality and their unwillingness to offend their religious dialogue partners. Consequently, he predicts, Jewish-Christian dialogue “is about to go through the wringer”. And he explains why it needs resetting.

Pressing the reset button means “refusing to allow your local Jewish communal leadership to set the boundaries of permissible debate on Israel”. It also means listening to the Christian voice under occupation before accepting the Jewish voice living comfortably, with full equal rights, many thousands of miles away from the Holy Land conflict zone.

Operating the wringer, of course, will be followed by a distinct chill forcing church leaders, local ministers and their congregations, as well as the Jewish leaders they have dialogue with, out of their comfort zone. Good. As Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote in Haaretz, it is time for Jewish communities “to have some really uncomfortable conversations”.

Pressing the Reset button seems a useful move.

Postscript

On the morning of 30 December, on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, I heard the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews say that the rise in anti-Semitism is a global disease that needs a global response. It didn’t occur to her, apparently, that much of the problem is explained by Israel’s cruel treatment of its Arab neighbours, especially the Palestinians. Wiser heads in Israel have warned for decades that Jews throughout the world would suffer for Israel’s appalling misconduct. So, it’s actually a local problem needing a local remedy.

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Nazi regime: Arresting Palestinians and summoning others for investigation

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Explanatory

 Nazi Occupied Palestine: Nazi Occupation forces, police and Nazi Gestapo intelligence forces arrested at dawn Wednesday, at least nine Palestinians from Nazi occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In Jenin, the occupation army raided several houses in the camp and arrested the two young men, Ibrahim Turkman and Omar Abu Salama, and Mosab Hanaysheh was arrested from his home in Qabatiya, the Jenin district.

As for Nablus, the occupation army arrested the freed prisoner, Muhammad Zahir Qat, from the village of Madama, south of the city, and the freed prisoner, Mu’tasim al-Natsheh, was arrested from Hebron.
In the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, the occupation forces arrested Qusai Abu Hashem (20 years old), Malik Abu Hashem (17 years old), and Mohsen Zaaqiq (18 years old). 

In Jerusalem, the Nazi occupation police and intelligence forces raided the homes of Palestinian leaders from the Fatah movement and delivered a number of them to summons for interrogation, and arrested the secretary of the Fatah movement in the village of Issawiya, Yasser Darwish.

The official agency stated that the Nazi occupation police warned against holding any activities to commemorate the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Palestinian revolution.

Palestinian youths fired homemade explosive devices at “Karmi Tzur” settlement near the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, in addition to targeting Nazi vehicle with a Molotov cocktail near the “Migdal Oz” settlement south of Bethlehem.

Very cold ambiance and slight rise in temperatures

How was the economy of Palestine in 2019?

Jerusalem Electricity: No power outages until further notice

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Pak-India Tension: Diplomatic Victory of Pakistan

Image result for Kashmir INDIA CARTOON


By: Sajjad Shaukat


This week, tension escalated rapidly between India and Pakistan when on February 27, this year, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive air strike near the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian
Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK).

Addressing a press conference on the same day, Director General of Pakistan Army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan Air Force have conducted aerial strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) from Pakistani airspace and shot down two Indian aircraft. One of the two Indian air force pilots was taken into custody.

Regarding Indian surgical strike, Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafoor elaborated: “There are only mud-brick homes. There is no madrassas. There isn’t even a concrete house…Two of the dried mud structures were damaged in the explosions…No one has been killed, no one has been seriously hurt…Indian planes crossed into the Muzafarabad sector of Pakistani-side of Kashmir…Pakistan scrambled its warplanes and the Indian jets released their payload in haste near Balakot.”

Afterwards, journalists visited the targeted site of Balakot and Islamabad also released a video which exposed the false statements of New Delhi that IAF fighters targeted the camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and killed 350 militants.

But, during the press briefing on February 26, India Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale called the strikes on Pakistani soil “non-military preemptive action”. He refused to answer questions by the media, as he could not show any proof in this respect.

Following the false flag Pulwama terror attack in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), which killed 44 Indian soldiers—Islamist militant group JeM claimed responsibility soon for the car suicide attack, New Delhi provoked Islamabad through the so-called surgical strike.

Without any investigation and evidence Indian high officials and media started accusing Islamabad, saying that the attackers had come from Pakistan to stage the assault.

The Indian foreign ministry allegedly said in a statement, “We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries.”

On the other side, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson stated: “We have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world…We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi also rejected Indian false allegations regarding Pulwama attack.

Speaking to the Indian media, former Chief Minister of the Indian Held Kashmir Farooq Abdullah said: “I was saddened to hear about the deaths of the soldiers…This is not something happening for the first time. These incidents happen everyday there…India should talk with Kashmiris, because using the force of guns and army is not the solution…Don’t blame Pakistan because local people are joining Kashmiri fight” [War of liberation].

Meanwhile, on February 21, 2019, India was humiliated at the diplomatic level when Pakistan’s name was not mentioned in the declaration by the UN Security Council condemning Pulwama attack. New Delhi tried everything possible to involve Pakistan’s name in the statement and tried
to use American influence as well. Multiple countries were briefed in New Delhi regarding the attack.

However, various contradictory developments and reports proved that Pulwama terror attack was a false flag operation, conducted by New Delhi to malign Islamabad in order to obtain various designs.
In this regard, quoting the report of the daily Kashmir Times of September 10, 2017, Pakistan’s media and even some leading newspapers of India revealed that the Indian drama was exposed after the disclosure that the alleged suicide attacker of the Pulwama attack Adil Ahmed Dar was already in the custody of the Indian army. “The Indian army had arrested Adil Ahmed Dar during an operation in Shopian on September 10, 2017…It is a big question that how he carried out the suicide attack when he was already in the custody of Indian army.”

Blindly alleging Pakistan, some Indian newspapers, especially India Today wrote: “Intelligence agencies in Jammu and Kashmir believe Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed commander-Ghazi Abdul Rasheed-is the mastermind behind the gruesome Pulwama terror attack that rocked the nation on February 14. He is one of the closest aides of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azha.”

It is notable that religious cleric Abdul Rasheed Ghazi was killed in 2007 during the Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad, launched by the then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Nevertheless, taking cognizance of Indian blame game and war-like posture, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on February 19, this year, that Pakistan will take action, if New Delhi shares any actionable evidence, concerning the suicide bombing in the occupied Kashmir’s
Pulwama area, which targeted Indian paramilitary soldiers. Offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier had also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan would not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.

But, by creating jingoism in India, Indian extremist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rejected any cooperation with Islamabad and has continued threatening diplomacy against Pakistan.

In a televised address on February 27, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that his country is ready to cooperate with New Delhi into the investigation of the February 14 suicide bombing, claimed by Pakistan-based armed group, JeM which was banned by the government. He called for talks with India and hoped better sense would prevail so that both sides could de-escalate.

Khan pointed out: “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons [Nuclear] we have can we afford miscalculation.”
India has also handed over its files on the February 14 bombing to Islamabad. Prime Minister Khan on February 28 stated in the joint session of the parliament, “Today they [India] have sent
a dossier on Pulwama…They should have given us the dossier first, and if we had not taken action, then they could have taken action.”
In his address, Khan reiterated his call for de-escalation. He explained, “I am saying to India: do not take it further than this. Because whatever you do, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate. And then two countries who have the weapons that the two of us, we should never even think of such
a thing.”

Prime Minister Khan also announced the release of Indian captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was attacked by a mob and then saved by Pakistan’s army. He was released on March 1 and handed over to the Indian authorities.

In this context, Khan remarked: “We have an Indian pilot. As a peace gesture we will release him”.
Khan also stated, “I tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi…I wanted to make it clear that we do not want any kind of escalation”. But, Modi did not attend his telephone call.

It is of particular attention that in a rare joint press conference by the top brass of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force on February 28, the top military officers also presented evidence that Pakistan had AMRAAM missiles mounted on its American-made F-16 fighter jets to target
Indian military installations.

Concealing ground realities, the press briefing by the Indian military’s high officials appeared to be an apology of the highest order, clueless and confused. They had no answers to the questions of the journalists and even no proof of claimed damage in Balakot strike was presented. They
could not provide any evidence of JeM camp and killing of 350 terrorists.

The air force officer said that he cannot comment on it and left it to the civil government. Similarly, no evidence of Pakistani F-16 which they claimed was shot down could be presented in the briefing. While, they
confirmed aerial strikes of Pakistan on the Indian Controlled Kashmir by displaying fragments from a missile they claimed matched the Pakistani F-16 fighter jet that purportedly crossed into Indian airspace and was shot down.

Pakistan was quick to claim that it did not use F-16s in the attack and that it had lost no aircraft.

However, one of the pictures released by Pakistan showed wreckage of the MiG-21 fighter. It is worth-mentioning that ISPR said in a statement on February 28, “Pakistan’s armed forces are on high alert along the Line of Control [LoC] and are prepared to deal with any Indian aggression…During the last 48 hours, Indian troops have resorted to increased ceasefire violations in Kotli, Khuiratta and Tatta Pani sectors along LoC…India’s deliberate firing on civilians resulted in the martyrdom of four citizens…Pakistan Army troops responded effectively to the violations and there were reports of casualties to Indian forces and damage to Indian
posts”.

Some of Pakistan’s airports have been closed to commercial flights. The operation of a bi-weekly cross-border train service between India’s capital New Delhi and Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore has been temporarily suspended due to the prevailing tensions between the two
countries.

Nonetheless, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to release the Indian captured pilot was described as a diplomatic victory of Pakistan over India. Many Indian politicians, journalists and renowned persons, including Kashmiri leaders and artists appreciated Khan’s optimistic
decision as a peace gesture.

On the other side, India’s 21 opposition parties and famous figures, chief ministers of Delhi, Bengal, puppet chief minister of IoK, civil society groups and artists criticised Modi for continuing his scheduled public events, including an election rally, while staying mum amid a
major military stand-off with Pakistan. Nevertheless, it shows Indian diplomatic defeat.

It is mentionable that many Western countries such as US, UK, France, Germany and Russia, including China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have expressed concern at the current situation, urging New Delhi and Islamabad to show restraint and de-escalation.

Particularly, Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state stated that he has spoken with the leaders of India and Pakistan and has urged them to avoid “any action that would escalate and greatly increase risk”.
On February 28, this year, US President Donald Trump has hoped that Pak-India tension will de-escalate soon—the United States has been mediating between the two sides and trying to have them stop.

Earlier, President Trump said on February 22, 2019, “Right now between Pakistan and India,there is a very dangerous situation. We would like to see it [hostilities] stop. We are very much involved in that [process].” Unlike his previous blame game of cross-border terrorism against
Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan, Trump also admitted that Washington has improved her relations with Islamabad shortly.

Especially, Russia and some Arab countries, including Turkey and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over tensions between Pakistan and India, and have offered their mediatory roles between both the nuclear countries for de-escalation.

Besides, the organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on February 26, condemned India’s incursion against Pakistan, urging the two countries to exercise restraint and avoid any steps that could endanger peace and security in the region. On the same day, in an emergency meeting, the
OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir expressed grave concern at the rising tensions in

South Asia and strongly condemned the recent wave of repression, killing of innocent civilians, and frequent incidents of rape perpetrated by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir. Notably, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the joint session of parliament
on March 1 that he would not attend the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the OIC in Abu Dhabi (Held in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2, 2019) over the presence of India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj, adding that lower ranking officials would attend to
represent Pakistan’s interests.

In fact, India was invited to participate in the conference on February 23, 2019 before the surgical strike and response of Islamabad in this connection. Indian media exaggerated the participation of Swaraj as a diplomatic triumph of New Delhi over Islamabad. But, India was frustrated, when concluding the CFM conference, a resolution was
passed, which condemned the Indian state terrorism in occupied Kashmir and reaffirmed its unwavering support for the Kashmiri people. It reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir remained the core dispute between Pakistan and India.

The resolution also reminded the international community of its obligation to ensure implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The OIC member states adopted another resolution which expressed grave concern over the Indian violation of Pakistani airspace; affirmed Pakistan’s right to self-defence; and urged India to refrain from the threat or use of force. The resolution
on regional peace and security in South Asia also welcomed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s renewed offer of dialogue to India and the goodwill gesture of handing over the Indian pilot.

However, it also proved Pakistan’s diplomatic victory over India.
It is also of particular attention that Indian Prime Minister Modi’s extremist party- BJP had got a land sliding triumph in the Indian elections 2014 on the basis of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan slogans. Therefore, since the Prime Minister Modi came to power, he has been implementing
anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda with the support of fanatic coalition outfits.

Now, double game has become the BJP strategy to win the Indian general elections 2019. In this respect, BJP leadership seems to have geared up its activity for forthcoming poll-2019. In the aftermath of the false flag Pulwama terror assault, New Delhi also launched a diplomatic
offensive to isolate Pakistan in the international community. But, India herself was isolated, as world’s major countries held India responsible for heightening the tension with Pakistan through surgical strike. Besides, Kashmir issue has been internationalized to a greater extent, as Indian
security forces have accelerated state terrorism on the innocent Kashmiris who are waging war of liberation and are demanding their right of self-determination, recognized by the related UNO
resolutions.

In fact, without bothering for nuclear war, in the aftermath of the terror attack in Pulwama, India is deliberately increasing war hysteria against Pakistan. It is noteworthy after the World War 11; nuclear weapons were never used, and were only employed as a strategic threat. During the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but they stopped because of the fear of nuclear war which could eliminate both the super powers. Hence, the two rivals preferred to resolve their differences through diplomacy.

In the past too, Indian rulers had intended to implement their doctrine of limited war in Kashmir or to fight a conventional war with Pakistan, but they could not do so owing to Pakistan’s nuclear
weapons. Unlike the former Soviet Union and the USA, war-like situation exists between New Delhi and Islamabad due to the perennial firing by the Indian forces across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in wake of the unresolved issue of Kashmir which remains a nuclear
flashpoint. And both the neighbouring countries have waged three wars on this dispute.

In the present circumstances, BJP-led fanatic government of Modi is badly mistaken, if it overestimates India’s power and underestimates Pakistan’s power. In this case, a prolonged conflict with conventional weapons could result into atomic war between the two countries. Taking note of the Indian war-like posture, Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 27,
chaired a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) to discuss a response to India’s Line of Control violation. The meeting was attended by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chiefs of all three services. The NCA is the apex civilian-led command headed by the prime minister to oversee the policy formulation, exercises, deployment, research and development, employment and operational command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenals.

Unlike India, Pakistan’s ruling party, opposition parties, members of civil societies and military are on one page regarding Indian aggression.
In this connection, on March 1, the joint sitting of the Pakistan’s parliament in demonstration of unity against any external aggression, passed a unanimous resolution strongly condemning the
blatant Indian aggression of 26th and 27th of February against the country and the parliamentary leaders said that they are standing shoulder to shoulder to the armed forces of Pakistan.

The resolution completely rejected India’s self-serving and fictitious claims of having destroyed alleged terrorist facility—pointed out that facts on the grounds clearly contradict India’s false claim and so have been testified by independent observers. The resolution noted that timely and effective action of the Pakistan Air Force repulsed the Indian attack without loss of life and property—India’s baseless allegations against Pakistan in the wake of Pulwama attack were politically—the Indian government’s subsequent action has been guided by its electoral
calculations. Strongly condemning the Indian atrocities in the IHK, the resolution rejected the India’s attempt to project the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as terrorism.

It reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute, pending on the agenda of the UN Security Council due to Indian intransigence. It underscored that a just and peaceful solution of Kashmir dispute. The resolution mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s
call to avoid further escalation and urged the parliament of India to support the call by this joint session of Pakistani parliament for de-escalation and dialogue between Pakistan and India.

Undoubtedly, we can conclude that peaceful strategy of Prime Minister Imran Khan and belligerent policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have culminated into diplomatic victory of Pakistan over India.

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
Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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Huge protests in India call for unity vs. government’s effort to expel Muslims

By: Satya Vatti

Huge protests in India call for unity vs. government’s effort to expel Muslims

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/DiplomatTesterMan

Some of the largest protests in recent decades are taking place across many states in India as mass outrage and opposition mounts against the passage of anti-Muslim legislation. India is home to about 200 million Muslims, but the government is led by a far-right, Hindu fundamentalist party called the BJP. At least 25 people have been killed so far as a consequence of the government’s efforts to repress the demonstrations.

On December 11, the BJP majority in the Indian parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), also known as CAB, which provides a fast-track pathway to Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who arrived in India prior to 2015 from neighboring Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The justification that the Indian parliament is trying to sell for the exclusion of Muslims from the CAA is that the bill is catered to religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. This rings hollow when one considers that Muslim minorities from neighboring non-Muslim majority countries, like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, who have sought refuge in India are demonized rather than given an expedited pathway to citizenship.

The anti-Muslim character of the CAA is evident when it is considered alongside the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a census-based database that tracks citizenship data, and has historically only been implemented in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.

At various points since the British arbitrarily carved up India during the struggle for independence from colonial rule to form present-day Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh (initially Eastern Pakistan), millions of people have migrated over porous borders to India to reunite with their families, seek employment or safety from civil war, communal violence, or persecution. Assam, being a border state, has since 1948 experienced an influx of migrants and refugees from the east seeking a new life of stability in India.

Following the Immigrants Expulsion from Assam Act of 1950, the first ever NRC was published in 1951 to differentiate Assamese citizens from undocumented immigrants. A string of laws to restrict the in-flow and define citizenship have since been adopted under pressure from the right-wing, narrow nationalist current in Assam that began the anti-foreigner movement in 1979, leading to violence and massacres of migrants at different junctures.

In 2013, Assam approached the Indian Supreme Court demanding to update the NRC. The updated NRC was released in August 2019, and two million people in Assam who were unable to provide documentation for proof of citizenship are now deemed as non-citizens and “illegal,” even though many have lived in India for decades or for generations. Of the two million that are now excluded in Assam, 700,000 turned out to be Muslims and, to the surprise of the Hindu-nationalist politicians who pushed for the NRC update, 500,000 were Bengali Hindus.

While the two million people who are excluded by the NRC will have a ten month window to appeal to the Foreigner’s Tribunal, the reality for a developing country like India, which is transitioning towards mass digitization and the use of biometric databases, is that tens of millions of people who reside in rural areas and urban slums still do not possess documents that can verify their citizenship. In fact, before 2009, half of the 1.3 billion Indians did not possess any form of identification, not even a birth certificate. Today, most Indians possess a proof of residency, which cannot be substituted for proof of citizenship.

In November, a proposal for a nationwide NRC was announced. The CAA coupled with the NRC will have a dangerous effect particularly on the Muslim communities, both native and immigrant, in India because the CAA will provide a pathway for citizenship for Hindus and others from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan so long as they claim religious persecution, but this option will not extend to Muslims. The millions of people who will not be able to prove their citizenship will be detained in mass deportation centers, the first of which is now being built in Assam, and a massive forced expulsion is anticipated if the NRC is extended to the whole country.

State response to mass rejection of CAA and NRC

For the past two weeks, university students, youth, Muslim communities, and the broader progressive left and working-class organizations and unions in many cities across India organized mass demonstrations in the streets to protest the anti-Muslim CAA and NRC. The protests are multinational in character, and solidarity extends across religious lines.

Those protesting condemn the CAA and the NRC and demand their repeal on the basis of religious discrimination, unconstitutionality, and state-sanctioned anti-Muslim chauvinism. They demand that the Indian state uphold its secular nature as guaranteed by the post-independence constitution.

Over 20 protestors have been killed, and thousands have been arrested and detained across the country over the past two weeks. When videos of police brutally beating protesting students of historically Muslim universities like Aligargh and Jamia Millia Islamia emerged, outraged students across the country came out into the streets to show solidarity and to condemn BJP-sanctioned police brutality.

Individual state governments like that of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, reject the CAA as unconstitutional and are unwilling to enforce it.

Defeating the BJP’s far right agenda

The mass protests in India are not only geared towards the CAA and the NRC, but the ruling BJP itself. Those in the streets to defend Muslims know well the far-right Hindu fundamentalist program of the BJP, its ties to the RSS, a fascistic Hindu-nationalist paramilitary organization, or its history of instigating and providing immunity to forces that carry out violence primarily against Dalits, Muslims, and leftists. Most recently, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomous status.

If the CAA and the NRC were to be enforced nationally, the BJP would be one step closer to its ultimate objective: to create a “Hindu Rashtra,” a Hindu nation, much like the Jewish apartheid state of Israel, which the BJP has great admiration for.

Despite India being a country that’s home to hundreds of distinct peoples, hundreds of languages, and many religions, the Modi government is continuing to politically and culturally create an ahistorical narrative around the need to return to an ethno-religious Hindu state and a country for and by Hindus. Over the past decade, BJP-dominated state governments have been reframing school curriculum and rewriting history books to glorify Hindu rulers and the role of Hinduism in the development of modern India, while minimizing and erasing the contributions of Muslims and others.

It must be noted that the United States government, which exudes fake humanitarian concern for Muslims when it works to its advantage in places like China, has remained silent on the mass protests against the CAA and the NRC, and the violence being unleashed on protesters by the Indian government. The U.S. Congress won’t move to pass any bills in solidarity with the protesters in India or against the Modi government, because of the close military, political and economic ties between the two governments.

Within the United States and around the world, progressives in the Indian diaspora have held rallies in solidarity with those protesting in India.

As the right-wing BJP politicians continue to stoke disunity between working-class Indians, the way forward for India is unity and struggle against the fascistic Modi-led BJP government and the capitalist system itself.

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Romania: 30 years removed from socialism

By Patricia Gorky

Thirty years ago, the socialist government of Romania was overthrown in a military coup d’etat.

Industrialization had transformed the lives of millions of Romanians during the country’s socialist period. But the later years were marked by strict rationing and frequent shortages as the government sought to pay off its foreign debt. Romanian people hoped that their lives would improve after 1989. But life today is much worse than even the most economically-deprived times of the 1980s. A 2010 poll revealed that 63 percent of Romanians say that life was better under socialism.

Romania’s capitalist politicians search everywhere for a scapegoat to evade self-incrimination. The Financial Times states that “Romania has evolved into a democracy and strengthened ties with the West, joining EU and NATO. But its transition was always incomplete.” What is meant by “incomplete” is never defined.

Map of the Socialist Republic of Romania in 1966. Liberation Graphic.

Communists, and executed President Nicolae Ceausescu in particular, are the usual targets. As part of the ongoing demonization campaign, former military prosecutor Dan Voinea made a ludicrous statement to the Financial Times: “The communists remain in power until this very day, but without the names.”

A Marxist approach requires us to understand the struggle between the working and owning classes. When the communists came to power, they dispossessed the wealthy nobility, clerics and bourgeoisie of their property. Land was collectivized, as well as all major industries, and the economy was centrally planned. Millions of dwellings were built for workers, and everyone had the right to a job.

The socialist Romanian government transformed a largely agrarian society, and made great gains in industrial production. What’s more, they accomplished this feat within mere decades while under constant attack by the West. The capitalist account of Romania’s history ignores the vast achievements of socialism only to focus on its problems and shortcomings, many of which originated from the global situation at the time.

Romania’s socialist origins: Armed insurrection spurs Red Army’s arrival

Unlike the popular revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba and others that brought communists to power, the key factor to Romania’s socialist transformation was the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II.

During the war Romania had been ruled by a fascist military dictatorship in an alliance with Nazi Germany. General Ion Antonescu was not a passive supporter of Nazi Germany. His support was originally based on the fascist Iron Guard. Antonescu sent hundreds of thousands of ethnic minorities to their deaths in concentration camps. This included Jewish and Roma people, as well as communists. Romania’s military was a key participant in the fascist invasion of the Soviet Union, which eventually took 27 million Soviet lives.

As the war went on, internal resistance to the dictatorship grew even as communists were driven underground. The Soviet Union began to turn the tide of war, delivering defeat after defeat to the fascist alliance. On Aug 23, 1944, a broad anti-fascist coalition led by the Communist Party arrested the dictator-general and locked him in a safe. This insurrection sped the Red Army’s advance into Bucharest days later. The Romanian army switched sides in the war and now fought as an ally of the Soviet Union.

Crowds cheer the entrance of the Soviet Red Army into Bucharest, Romania’s capital, in August 1944. Source: Fototeca online a comunismului românesc. Cota 55/1944

Like so many other countries in Eastern Europe, post-war governments were primarily shaped by the militaries that liberated them from fascism – the Soviet Union in the East and the U.S. / Britain in the West. The U.S. and British governments made clear that they would tolerate no governments other than those specifically chosen by the imperialists in their “sphere.” This was evident in the cases of Italy and Greece in particular, where the British military directly intervened to crush the communists, who had led the partisan resistance to fascism and were already in control of many areas.

But instead of a capitalist government, the Soviet Union oversaw the formation of socialist governments in Eastern Europe that would serve the interests of the working class.

The Soviet Union had been pushed to the verge of annihilation not just by the German military, but by the resources and industrial capacity of essentially all of continental Europe. The Nazi war machine had relied on the militaries of Romania, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia, as well as key agricultural and oil output from Romania. Fascist resurgence was a possibility too deadly for the Soviet Union to allow.

After years of fascist dictatorship, there was no pre-war “democratic” government to go back to. The largely-discredited monarchy and bourgeois parties had the support of the West, but these very parties had been responsible for Romania’s fascist takeover.

Key support from the Soviets, whose Red Army remained in Romania after the defeat of the fascists, was given to the National Democratic Front, a coalition led by the Romanian Communist Party (PCR).

The Communist Party’s general secretary, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, had been a railway worker and PCR militant. He was born in 1901, and began working at the age of 11 years old, a situation all too common for youths of his time. For his part in organizing strikes in 1933 he was sentenced to 12 years’ hard labor. While in prison he was elected to the central committee of the PCR.

Nicolae Ceausescu, another party leader, was born in 1918, and was a shoemaker’s apprentice in Bucharest from the age of 10. He began revolutionary activity early, and was in and out of prison organizing strikes and sabotage against the Nazi-allied government. At age 22, Ceausescu was in Jilava prison when it was invaded by members of the fascist Iron Guard, who slaughtered 64 of the other prisoners before they were stopped.

In 1946, nearly 7 million people voted for the National Democratic bloc. This election had the highest number of participants in the country’s history. The new government forced the abdication of the reactionary monarchy. Two years later the PCR would merge with the social democrats to form the Romanian Workers’ Party (PMR).

‘Not just a dream’; industrializing an agrarian society

The tasks of the country were enormous. Industrial output was halved by the war and the population had been reduced from nearly 20 million to less than 16 million. More than 700,000 had died. The vast majority of the people were peasants who worked on farms, and had a life expectancy of 42 years.

At once the government set upon an electrification plan, and laid the foundation for the development of industry. Farmland owned by a small, rich minority was confiscated and collectivized. Extravagant castles and mansions were seized from the parasitic nobility and used for museums and other public institutions.

Workers celebrate the production of their 1,000th locomotive in 1955, the result of Romania’s first 5-year plan. Source: Fototeca online a comunismului românesc, cota 194/1955

Four decades of socialist development would transform Romania from a country that imported 90 percent of machinery to a country that manufactured its own. Social services and education radically improved health: life expectancy increased by 30 years. More than 5 million jobs were created, and industrial output rose by more than 650 percent since 1950.

Housing was a major priority for the state. By 1980, the socialist government had built 4.6 million homes for people. Scanteia newspaper reported how a communist of the old underground “felt the need to touch and caress the bricks of the first apartment blocs to be built for steelworkers, so he could convince himself that they were not just a dream”.

Pregnant women and mothers were accorded rights that even bourgeois reviewers noted as “comprehensive and generous.” Women were given fully-paid maternity leave of 112 days. And with no loss to benefits, “mothers were permitted to take a leave of absence from work to raise a child to the age of 6, or they could request half-time work.”

Still a developing country suffering from centuries of underdevelopment, Romania strove to become a medium-developed country and narrow the gap between it and the West. For Gheorghiu-Dej and Ceausescu after him, lessening ties with Moscow was seen as necessary to attain that goal.

Division in the socialist camp

After the war the Soviet Union imposed war reparations on the country (along with other formerly fascist states) to repay part of the immense damage caused by the war. Although the aggregate reparations amounted to just one-fifth the actual cost of destruction suffered by the Soviet Union, these reparations strained the fragile economy of Romania. This likely did not improve the public view of the USSR. There were still Soviet troops in Romania, and Moscow exercised a direct intervention in the economy through the Sovrom joint-stock partnerships over Romania’s major industries.

Stalin’s death in 1953 and the subsequent shifts in the Soviet Union impelled the divide further. Gheorghiu-Dej and Ceausescu negotiated the buyout of the Sovroms at great cost.

A worker in tattered clothes reads one of the first issues of Scanteia newspaper, Romanian for ‘spark’. Source: Fototeca online a comunismului românesc, cota 133/1944

But in 1955, Romania joined the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, also known as the Warsaw Pact, with the USSR and other countries of the eastern European socialist bloc.

At the same time, Romania’s leaders began to establish economic ties with capitalist and imperialist countries in order to lessen ties with the Soviet Union. In 1958 with Chinese support, Gheorghiu-Dej negotiated the removal of Soviet soldiers from Romanian soil, the only East European country to do so. As the Sino-Soviet split divided the Socialist Bloc between Moscow and Beijing, Bucharest maintained neutrality.

In 1964 the PMR adopted Gheorghiu-Dej’s theses that emphasized national independence and sovereignty, equal rights, mutual advantage, non-interference in internal affairs, and observance of territorial integrity. When Gheorghiu-Dej died in 1965, Ceausescu redoubled the steps towards nationalism. The PMR renamed itself the Romanian Communist Party (PCR), and the country became the Socialist Republic of Romania to signify a step forward.

1970s and 1980s; ‘Maverick’ Romania turns West

The 1970s was a period of tremendous growth and development for the country. Vast natural resources paired with Western trade concessions and foreign credit brought Romania’s most prosperous years since World War II.

But in many ways the country’s leadership held positions that were reactionary and opportunistic. The “independence” put forward by Gheorghiu-Dej and later Ceausescu became more and more allied with U.S. imperialism. Romania recognized West Germany, and became the only socialist country to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. When the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected socialist president of Chile, many socialist countries severed diplomatic relations. Yet Romania maintained them.

These steps convinced the U.S. government that Ceausescu could be influenced and worked with to a certain extent. He was labelled a “maverick” by the U.S. press and internal CIA documents. They eagerly sought to distance Romania from the Soviet Bloc. In 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon made a state visit to Romania, the first visit of a U.S. president to a socialist country, three years before his famed visit to China.

Romania would go on to join imperialist financial agreements including taking loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The U.S. welcomed each of these moves, but other than high interest loans they gave Romania nothing of substance in return. What the U.S. really wanted was the overturn of the progressive social system and the return of capitalist exploitation and oppression.

But the coup d’etat of 1989 could not have succeeded without an accumulation of errors on the part of the country’s leaders. The government’s vacillation between the imperialist and socialist camps was one such example.

The late 1970s and early 1980s ushered in a series of crises that rocked the Romanian economy. A devastating earthquake hit Bucharest in 1977, followed by the global economic crisis. For much of the 1970s the Romanian government had been able to export key commodities like oil at high prices. But when prices slumped, suddenly Romania lost a significant source of revenue. Foreign credit that had previously offered an attractive path to development became an obstacle to the country’s survival.

Romania borrowed from the IMF, whose loan terms are designed to enslave governments in a cycle of debt by imposing crippling interest rates and severe austerity on the people. They remain a key tool for imperialists today that limit a country’s development. For the Romanian government, foreign debt had become a trap from which they desperately worked to extricate themselves.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the Romanian government rationed electricity, heat, gasoline and food – the first time since the early postwar years. Agricultural goods were exported to pay down the loan, rendering certain food items like meat and milk scarce. People arrived home in the cold winter only to have the heat shut off after a few hours. Even radio and television transmissions were restricted to preserve energy.

These were difficult years for the Romanian people. Other countries like Poland and Hungary which had taken out similar loans were not even able to pay the interest. Romania paid back the principal as well.

Meanwhile the capitalist reforms in the Soviet Union gave fodder to reactionary elements across Eastern Europe. At the same time, the West’s cultural cold war continued, particularly enticing young people in the socialist camp with pro-capitalist propaganda.

December 1989 and the military coup d’etat

By April 1989, the Romanian government declared the country free of Western debt. The Grand National Assembly enacted a ban on taking on any further foreign credits. Yet the rationing of food and energy continued. Perhaps this was an effort to impel the economy further, but these austerity measures were self-defeating.

These decisions made by the country’s leaders could only have further isolated much of the working class.

The imperialist media seized upon any sign of discontent in the Socialist Bloc. So did the U.S. government, which had financed counterrevolutionary organizations throughout Eastern Europe since the end of World War II. The imperialists carefully studied each manifestation. A 1987 classified CIA document outlined a number of possible situations that would lead to the downfall of the Romanian government given the prospect of the coming winter. Stunningly, one of the scenarios in this “winter thinkpiece” would play out almost exactly as occurred two years later: In this scenario, a group of striking workers would establish a national organization to coordinate protests. “Pragmatic” opponents of the Ceausescus in leadership would remove him from office, with support of the Securitate or military. The new government would ease restrictions on food and energy to placate most workers.

Instead of a strike in a major factory, the disturbances would arise around a reactionary Hungarian cleric in the western city of Timisoara. And one such “Council of National Salvation” was formed not from any workers’ group but from the top military brass, who began operating as a council six months before the coup.

Timisoara is a cosmopolitan city in western Romania near the Hungarian border. In 1989 there were 1.7 million Hungarians who lived in the region. Bourgeois elements in Hungary long promoted counterrevolutionary propaganda, including alleged grievances against the Hungarian minorities.

The eviction of a counterrevolutionary cleric on Dec. 16 sparked protests in Timisoara. Confrontations ensued between rightwing protestors and security forces, but there were few casualties. There was no massacre as was repeated by the imperialist press. The New York Times published hysterical reports of “mass graves in Timisoara” holding thousands of people, and the Hungarian media claimed that 60,000 had been killed. All of this was later revealed to be false.

Protests grew around the country. On Dec. 20 the military, foreshadowing its coming betrayal, withdrew from Timisoara. This was a boon to the counterrevolution; mobs of people ransacked the local Communist Party headquarters. The unrest was serious enough for Ceausescu to cut short a state visit to Iran and return to the capital.

Up to this time, the clandestine counterrevolutionary Council of National Salvation had been operating for 6 months prior. Their pre-December activities are not known, and there were a number of such councils. The most prominent included a former ambassador to the United States; a disgraced PCR politician who would become the new government’s president; and at least 4 military generals, including a retired general who had made previous attempts against Ceausescu.

On Dec. 21, Ceausescu appeared before a mass rally in Bucharest. He announced considerable increases in the minimum salary, child subsidies and pensions. He denounced the actions in Timisoara of a group who wanted to place the country again under foreign domination. In what would be prophetic words, Ceausescu spoke: “Some would like again to reintroduce unemployment, to reduce the living standards of the people, and in order to dismantle Romania, to dismember Romania, to put our independent people and nation in danger.”

His speech was interrupted by protestors, and his disoriented response to the heckling was disproportionately publicized by the imperialist media. People remained in the streets, and clashes with the authorities took place. Imperialist propaganda outlets like Radio Free Europe broadcasted false reports of a “massacre” in Bucharest, and workers from around the city poured into the streets the next day. Many of the people protesting had legitimate grievances that were built up over years of austerity.

But the protests quickly devolved into fascist violence when the military defected. Rightwing mobs set fire to the National Archives and the university library. Crowds attacked Ceausescu’s home, forcing him and his wife Elena to flee the capital in a helicopter. Their pilot abandoned them on a country road where they were soon captured.

The military-led NSF seized control of the television stations and declared themselves the new government.

Military brass, a historical source of counterrevolution, were at odds with Ceausescu’s plan to integrate them into civilian work. “For years,” wrote rightwing academic Vladimir Tismaneanu in the New York Times, “troops have been forced to engage in such demeaning activities as raising crops and supplying manual labor for grandiose Ceausescu projects.”

Long held at bay by the socialist government, the terror of the bourgeoisie raised its head. On Dec. 25, 1989, a secret military tribunal charged Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu with fabricated crimes that included “genocide” and “destroying the country’s economic and spiritual values.” Moments later as he was led to his death, Nicolae Ceausescu sang the Internationale. He and his wife were executed by firing squad.

Chaos ensued in the following days. The entire leadership of the Communist Party was imprisoned. Communists were disappeared and even lynched in the streets. Some in the Securitate, whose origin came from the peasantry, put up an armed resistance to the military coup. They were hunted and executed.

Privatization and poverty, the American way

Within days the “socialist” NSF outlawed the Communist Party. Addendums to foreign treaties that called for states to guarantee full employment, housing and education were abolished.

The U.S. government was quick to intervene. As early as January 1990, Washington instructed its Bucharest envoy “to take preliminary actions to encourage the process [of privatization].” Special attention was given to the bourgeois media. The U.S. Embassy issued an urgent request for up-to-date video equipment for the television station. Prior anti-communist laws prevented the U.S. government from directly providing the equipment.

Embassy cables gloated over how the counterrevolution “has made it possible to pursue, in numerous heretofore unthinkable ways, our fundamental policy goals in Romania.”

One of those goals was the domination of Romanian polity by U.S. legal norms. The Embassy’s work plan included distributing 10,000 copies of the U.S. constitution in the Romanian language to all members of the new parliament after the elections. U.S. legal experts would “advise” Romania in the creation of the new constitution and legal codes. Newly-minted Romanian politicians would be exposed to representatives from U.S. political parties and private businesses.

Trade and economic meetings would convince Romanian officials that the economic benefits the U.S. can offer were contingent on the new government adhering to the American view of elections and the upholding of so-called individual rights to exploit the collective.

The U.S. military, which already had planned military-to-military contacts, would transform the Romanian armed forces into a “professional and non-political” corps based on a “commander – commanded” relationship.

Overnight, independent and sovereign Romania became a U.S. neocolony. A new law approved 100 percent foreign ownership of investments. State-owned enterprises, which had fueled the country’s generous social services, were sold to foreign capitalists.

Gone was the law banning foreign debt. Negotiations with the IMF began in 1993, with the requirement for the Romanian government to enter its currency into the world market, making Romania more susceptible to the tumult of global capitalism.

By 1994, half of the population lived on less than $160 a month. Price controls over food were removed. Inflation hit 300 percent. Unemployment, which previously did not exist, haunted millions. In desperation, 4 million people turned to a pyramid scheme called Caritas. The pyramid scheme was allowed to operate by the new government, and millions of families lost a collective $1 billion. The leu, Romania’s national currency, sank to 1,748 to one dollar.

Alleged discrimination of ethnic minorities was used to topple the socialist governments. But the new capitalist governments relied on the support of the racist right wing. Fascist violence against Roma, ethnic Hungarians and Jewish people erupted across the country. In a 1993 New York Times article, Henry Kamm detailed the quickly emerging racist attacks on the Roma. Using a slur for the Roma people, Kamm wrote: “The millions of Gypsies of Eastern Europe have emerged as great losers from the overthrow of Communism… Many of the economic and social protections that Gypsies enjoyed in Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia collapsed, permitting a revival of the open prejudice and persecution that have marked the history of the Roma, as Gypsies prefer to call themselves…”

Capitalism restored, social conditions deteriorate

The coup plotters’ aim, despite their claims of “democracy” and “freedom,” was never to improve the standard of living for Romanian workers.

As difficult as the years of rationing were, the quality of life for Romanians today is much worse.

More than 85 percent of all individual work contracts in Romania pay less than the minimum needed for survival, even as costs continue to climb. Many have left the country in search of an economic future. Since 1989 Romania experienced the highest levels of emigration of all European countries: 3.5 million people have fled, more than 5 times the number of deaths in World War II. Today, the diaspora represents one-fifth of the country’s own labor force.

Foreign corporations reap mega-profits from the artificially low wages of Romania. The restoration of capitalism promised wealth and freedom for the country, yet today Romania remains among the poorest countries in the European Union. Romania’s economy and natural resources have been completely opened to foreign capital for exploitation. Almost every industrial measure peaked in mid to late 1980s, and then bottomed out after the 1990s.

The Romanian government today is loyal to U.S. empire. There are now U.S. military bases in the countryside and in Romania’s principal ports. When the U.S. demanded that all NATO countries contribute 2 percent of their GDP, Romania was the first to raise military spending. By U.S. accounts, actions taken by the Romanian government in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to support U.S. interests have been “almost too numerous to list”.

When the government was toppled in 1989, many Romanian people looked to the U.S. government as a source of hope. They were convinced that the years of austerity were finally over. Some believed that now, they too would have access to abundant consumer goods and an American lifestyle.

This false image of abundance was intentionally cultivated by the imperialists to weaken the Socialist Bloc. If the imperialists could convince workers in socialist states that the U.S. was the “land of opportunity,” they could seriously weaken the stability of socialism. Defeat of the socialists in the cultural war was an important factor in the overthrow of socialist governments.

Faced with the daunting task of industrializing agrarian societies, socialist governments in addition had to produce consumer goods for its population while under technological and economic embargo, and under constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Furthermore, they had to do this within the span of just decades. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, had enriched themselves through centuries of capitalist exploitation, including the enslavement of millions of Africans and the Indigenous.

History did not cease in 1989. Capitalism’s restoration in Romania and the former Socialist Bloc has brought with it all its inherent contradictions. It is bound to reignite mass struggle. The words of the socialist Internationale, written 150 years ago and translated into nearly every language, continue to inspire the fight of the oppressed for emancipation: “The earth shall rise on new foundations; we have been naught, we shall be all.”

Long live the struggle for socialism!

Select Bibliography

Marcy, Sam. “Reactionary Coup in Romania”. 4 Jan. 1990. Workers’ World. www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/marcy/1990/sm900104.html. Accessed 16 Dec 2019

Oțetea, Prof. Andrei. A Concise History of Romania. English edition edited by Andrew MacKenzie. London, Unified Printers and Publishers. 1985.

Rotaru, Constantin. Socialism și capitalism în teorie și practică fiscală. Editura Karta-Graphic. Ploiești, 2011.

Serban, Rodica. “A Grand, Historic Accomplishment of the People, for the People––New Modern Homes”. Scînteia. 7 Apr 1989. Quoted in JPRS Report: Eastern Europe. Foreign Broadcast Information Service.

Posted in RomaniaComments Off on Romania: 30 years removed from socialism

Neocolonialism spurs ongoing crisis in Cameroon

By Joe Tache

Soldiers in Bamenda. Public domain image.

Soldiers in Bamenda. Public domain image.

In October 2019, Nebane Abienwi, a 37-year-old Cameroonian man, died in ICE custody in San Diego. Abienwi was one of at least 10,000 Cameroonians seeking asylum in the United States. The recent increase in Africans being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border is largely a result of this exodus of people from Cameroon.

Many factors are causing heightened emigration from Cameroon, perhaps the primary one being the “Anglophone crisis.” Since 2016, there has been significant unrest and government repression in the western English-speaking (Anglophone) regions of Cameroon. Much of the media coverage has depicted protesters in the western regions as fighting to defend their “Anglo-Saxon heritage.”

Of course, Cameroon is a West African country. Its peoples’ histories date back thousands of years, the vast majority of which were lived without the exploitative presence of British colonialism. So why in 2019, nearly 60 years after Cameroon’s official independence, is British “heritage” given so much consideration in this West African nation?

Cameroon: 1884 to the present

Cameroon's changing boundaries. Orange=German Kamerun, Red=British Cameroons, Blue=French Cameroun, Green=Republic of Cameroon. By Roke - Self-made based on public domain CIA map Image:Cameroon Map.jpg, original svg file located here., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=938868

Cameroon’s changing boundaries. Orange=German Kamerun, Red=British Cameroons, Blue=French Cameroun, Green=Republic of Cameroon. By Roke – Self-made based on public domain CIA map Image:Cameroon Map.jpg, original svg file located here., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=938868

To understand the current climate in Cameroon, one must understand its history. Germany claimed Cameroon as a colony in 1884 in the wake of the Berlin Conference, in which the major colonial powers of the time met to arbitrarily carve up the lands of Africa amongst themselves, without consideration for the desires of the incredibly diverse populations of Africa.

However, Germany’s control over Cameroon was short-lived. As capitalism entered its imperialist phase towards the turn of the 1900s, competition increased between the European powers over control of the various colonized nations, culminating in World War I. In 1919, after defeating Germany in WWI, France and England took possession of Germany’s colonies in the Global South, clearly revealing the inter-imperialist character of the war.

Cameroon — its borders already artificially constructed after the Berlin Conference — was once again arbitrarily reshaped. England took control of the smaller western regions of the country, and France claimed the eastern regions. As the 20th century progressed, like in most African nations, a national liberation movement developed in Cameroon. The movement was led by the Union of the Populations of Cameroon. The UPC led an armed struggle on the platform of national reunification and radical social proposals such as land redistribution, increased salaries for workers, and universal education.

In an attempt to undermine these growing, militant and principled movements, France strategically “granted” its many African colonies independence in 1959. In 1960, Cameroon and 12 other former French colonies were officially made independent. Far from an act of kindness, this was a strategic decision by France to install neocolonial governments in their former colonies — administrations that kept their nations’ people and resources subservient to French interests but led by native elites to present the appearance of national sovereignty.

In Cameroon, France appointed career politician Ahmadou Ahidjo as president. In a 1958 speech, Ahidjo described his allegiance to France, the nation that had exploited his own people for the past 40 years: “How can we conceive having any other partner than this country we know and love? How can we forget its accomplishment all these years that we have learned to understand and appreciate her. … ” (Takougang and Krieger, African State and Society in the 1990s, 1998) In collaboration with French military and intelligence agencies, Ahidjo’s government brutally crushed the UPC movement.

The English-controlled western regions were also granted independence in 1960. Part of the territory voted to join Nigeria, and the other part voted to join Cameroon. The French- and English-speaking regions of Cameroon designed a federated constitutional arrangement, and the English-speaking elites were folded into Ahidjo’s single-party administration. National reunification was at least partially achieved in 1961, but not in the manner the UPC and its supporters envisioned. When independence is granted and not won, it is done so on the terms of the colonizing powers.

In its 60 years of nominal independence, Cameroon has had two presidents: Ahidjo and Paul Biya, the current president. Both men were born in the French-speaking region of Cameroon, and both have maintained a subordinate position to France and the West more broadly. Major local industries are still owned and controlled by European interests.

For example, Cameroon’s largest export by far is oil. While there is a state-owned oil company in Cameroon, two of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the country, Total E&P and Perenco, are based in France (and Perenco is a Franco-British joint project). Perenco is the largest oil producer in Cameroon, while Total E&P is the largest distributor of finished petroleum products.

Additionally, after accepting an International Monetary Fund loan in 1988, Biya’s government bent to the West’s will to an even greater degree and implemented a Structural Adjustment Program, which included significant cuts to Cameroon’s national budget and the privatization of many “parastatal” companies (Takougang and Krieger, 1998). Finally, France still controls Cameroon’s currency and treasury.

Neocolonialism, neoliberalism, and the Cameroonian elite’s complicity in the continued exploitation of the Cameroonian masses have led to high inequality and low standards of living in much of the country.

Popular uprisings since the 1990s

In addition to neoliberal austerity and economic hardship, a major point of discontent in Cameroon has been the governance of the country, under both Ahidjo and Biya. Both have been criticized for altering the political structures of Cameroon to consolidate their own power, and for engaging in tribalism. Perhaps the most notable example was when Ahidjo’s government abolished the office of vice president in 1982. This angered some in the western English-speaking regions of Cameroon because as part of the country’s constitutional reunification agreement, the office of president was to be designated for a “Francophone” and vice president for an “Anglophone.”

Class society is always on uneven footing, and Cameroon erupted in the 1990s. A massive student movement broke out in 1991, and later that year, up to 2 million people participated in a tactic called “villes mortes/ghost towns” (similar to a general strike) to bring four provinces — two English-speaking and two French-speaking — to a grinding halt for months (Takougang and Krieger, 1998).

Some of the discontent was channeled into a growing “Anglophone” nationalist movement, which included organizations such as the Cameroon Anglophone Movement and the All Anglophone Conference. The government met these movements with both the carrot and the stick in an attempt to subvert their momentum: certain concessions, such as the introduction of multiparty elections in 1992, on one hand, and heavy repression, on the other. Eventually, the mass protest movements waned as the 1990s progressed.

Street of Buea (SW Region Cameroon) on a Ghost town day. Photo: DrAgach, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Street of Buea (SW Region Cameroon) on a Ghost town day, 2016. Photo: DrAgach, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Since 2016, mass protests have again emerged in the two English-speaking regions that helped anchor the ghost towns movement in 1991. This time, the protests have been mostly defined by their “Anglophone” character. They were sparked when teachers and lawyers in the two English-speaking regions went on strike to protest the appointment of French-speaking judges and teachers and the use of French documents in courts, with “no understanding of the common law and educational systems that operate in these areas.”

Ghost towns have once again become a popular tactic. An armed secessionist movement has also emerged, declaring the “Anglophone” regions of Cameroon to be a nation named Ambazonia. Economic crisis, mass arrests, repression of protests, and government clashes with armed militants have caused at least 2,000 deaths and displaced thousands more. The ramifications of this situation reach as far as the U.S.-Mexico border.

Colonialism is relationship of exploitation, not heritage

The elephant in the room is that colonialism is a relationship of exploitation, not heritage. While it may be true that President Biya has consolidated state power in the hands of his “Francophone” party and has mostly stacked government positions with French-speaking administrators, it is also true that Cameroon ranks near the bottom in global quality of life measurements. Poverty afflicts millions of people in Cameroon, regardless of which colonial language they speak.

Since the French installed Ahidjo and crushed the popular anti-colonial UPC movement, political life has largely been a playground of the elite in Cameroon. Even prominent “opposition” political leaders that emerged in the unrest of the 1990s, such as Samuel Eboua and Adamou Njoya, were former administrators in President Adhidjo’s government (Takougang and Krieger, 1998).

When Western and Eastern Cameroon agreed to reunify in 1961, the “Anglophone” elites brokered a deal to be absorbed into Ahidjo’s party and government — some with leadership positions, including the guarantee that an “Anglophone” would always hold the vice president’s office. Throughout the following decades, this power-sharing agreement between elites gradually eroded, with the “Anglophone” elites largely stripped of their influence. The colonial-inspired sectarian division of “Anglophone” versus “Francophone” misdirects the justified anger of the Cameroonian masses towards a battle that ultimately benefits the elites.

Additionally, while there is certainly an element of tribalism in Cameroon, the protest movements vary ideologically. For example, The Stand Up for Cameroon movement is a coalition of political parties and organizations — each with strengths and shortcomings — that are united against tribalism and in their calls for political transition in Cameroon. To reduce the ongoing conflict in the country to “Anglophone” versus “Francophone,” as many have, is inaccurate and characteristic of the racist trope that reduces conflict in Africa to an irrational tribalism, rather than tangible contradictions.

Strong movements rooted in national unity have precedent in Cameroon and reveal the political frailty of tribalism. The UPC became a force in the 1950s with its program of national liberation, reunification, and radical economic redistribution. In Cameroon’s first multiparty presidential elections in 1992, John Fru Ndi, the Social Democratic Front party’s candidate, won major support in both “Anglophone” and “Francophone” regions with a program that spoke to peoples’ widespread concerns. Many believe that Biya only won the 1992 election due to fraud.

As President Biya approaches 90 years of age and protests continue, Cameroon’s political future is unclear. However, history shows that only a movement that speaks to the root causes of the challenges that people are facing, rather than to the manufactured issue of colonial heritage, will be able to effectively energize a critical mass of Cameroonians to liberate the country from the strings of neocolonialism and capitalism.

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Trump’s ‘Anti-Semitism’ executive order fights anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism

By Saul Kanowitz

Boston anti-racist counter protest. Liberation photo.

Boston anti-fascist counter protest. Liberation photo.

The Party for Liberation and Socialism extends our deepest condolences to the victims of the shootings at the JC Kosher Market in Jersey City, New Jersey. The murders of Mindel Ferencz, Moshe Deutsch and Douglas Miguel Rodríguez at the Jewish market reflect a rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in particular and racism in general since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The daily racist derision of immigrants, Muslims, and nationally oppressed people by Trump beginning with his election campaign and then reinforced under his administration are responsible for a climate that encourages neo-fascist and right-wing elements to act violently on their racist beliefs.

Early this week, the Trump administration issued an “Anti-Semitism” executive order defining Judaism as more than a religion. The order effectively confers upon Jewish people, beyond a shared religious belief, nationhood and thus protection under the Civil Rights Act. The order also expands the definition of anti-Semitism to include anti-Zionist activity.

That Donald Trump would confer nationality on Jewish people is more than what the Zionist leaders of Israel could ever had hoped for from the president of the United States. But Trump and his administration have no concern for Jewish people or for fighting anti-Semitism.

If Trump was concerned about anti-Semitism, how could Reverend Robert Jeffress, an anti-Semitic evangelical Christian minister be invited to speak at the White House Hanukkah celebration? Jeffress’s bigoted view of all non-Christian believers is summed up best by a sermon he gave in 2009 where he stated: “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. You know, Jesus was very clear. Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers and drug dealers and child abusers. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

If one were to think having Jeffress speak was an oversight or mistake on the part of the administration, Trump’s own narcissistic words reveal Trump’s absence of concern for Jewish people when speaking at the same White House celebration: “I’d watch him on different shows, and I’d say, ‘I like that guy. Man, he talks really great about me. And I like people that talk well about me.”

Despite Trump’s egotism, the imperialist system is only interested in securing its position in the Middle East and fortifying the Zionist state of Israel as a means to that end. For the imperialist empire, backing Israel and supporting anti-Semites are not contradictory, and that is also fine with the leaders of Israel despite their claim to be the defenders of Jewish people.

The executive order has very little to do with combating the rise in violence against Jewish people in the United States and more to do with suppressing the growing movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people for national liberation and ending genocidal policies of the Zionist state of Israel. The passage of the “Nation-State of the Jewish People” law by the Israeli Knesset in May 2018 declared that national rights in Israel only belong to Jewish people, nodding to continued expansion of Zionist settlements in the West Bank. This has further isolated Israel internationally and made it an even more hated colonial project. The Palestinian people have responded with renewed resistance and acts of resistance such as the Great March of Return movement. Worldwide solidarity is growing as seen in the growth of the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement initiated by Palestinian civil society. 

The continuing support by the Trump administration of the genocidal actions of the Zionist state, coupled with the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and efforts to pass federal legislation suppressing Palestinian voices in the United States, has been met with opposition from both inside and outside the U.S. Jewish community.

The equating of any criticism of Israeli, that is anti-Zionist activity, with real anti-Semitic activity, like the killings in Jersey City or the murder of 11 people in Pittsburgh at L’Simcha synagogue in October of 2018, does a disservice to Jewish people the world over who reject the policies and actions of the state of Israel 

In a press release issued by Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish organization opposed to Zionism, Rabbi Alissa Wise, acting co-executive director, exposed the true intent of the executive order stating:

Three days ago, Trump said Jews would vote for him because they like money. And yet now he suddenly pretends to care about Jewish safety? He has never cared about stopping antisemitism — this Executive Order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them. The Executive Order is his way of forcing through a deeply unpopular and unconstitutional bill. …

The best way to fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia, including Islamophobia, is not to rely on pronouncements by the imperialist government of the United States, but is through a multi-national mass movement that directly confronts racism in all its manifestations, including Zionism and anti-Semitism.

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Viral Chilean feminist anthem reveals powerful international sentiment against sexual violence

By Candice Yanez

Viral Chilean feminist anthem reveals powerful international sentiment against sexual violence

“A rapist in your path” being performed in Mexico City. Photo: Wotancito. Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional

Originally posted on Breaking the Chains.

A Chilean feminist anthem against rape and the systematic oppression of women has gone viral worldwide. ‘Un Violador en Tu Camino’ – ‘A Rapist on Your Path’ – has been performed in Mexico, Colombia, France, Spain, the UK−to name a few.

The protest song was first performed for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 20 in Valparaíso, Chile. A large flash mob of women with black cloth covering their eyes chanted the lyrical protest while performing the song’s accompanying choreography. A Chilean feminist art collective called LaTesis, compried of feminist artists Daffne Valdés, Sibila Sotomayor, Paula Cometa, and Lea Cáceres, wrote the popular song.

The lyrics describe how the capitalist political structure comprised of the police, the justice system and the powerful elite uphold the systematic oppression of women:

“The patriarchy is a judge
Who judges us by birth?
And our punishment
Is the violence you do not see. (x2)
It is femicide.
Impunity for my killer.
It is disappearance.
It is rape.
And the fault was not mine, not where I was, nor what I wore. (x4)
The rapist was you.
The rapist is you.
It is the cops,
The judges,
The State,
The President.
The oppressive state is a macho rapist. (x2)
‘Sleep well, innocent girl,
Do not worry about the bandit,
Your sweet and smiling sleep
Is taken care of by your loving Carabinero.’
The rapist is you. (x4)”

While the song was written before the wave of protests began in October, still it describes the police repression of protestors that has resulted in numerous allegations of rape, torture, and murder. Protestors performed the song as a creative action within the wave of mass demonstrations against Chile’s neoliberal policies going into their second month.

The song and performance speaks directly to the Chilean experience but has become a worldwide phenomenon because it speaks to the experience of women across the globe. The song not only captures the political moment in Chile, but speaks to women fighting for justice worldwide.

Renditions of the song have taken place in various settings across the globe: public spaces, town squares and in front of municipal buildings. The song has been performed in many places worldwide, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain, Germany, France, Mexico and Istanbul.

According to the United Nations report, a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence, and half of women murdered were killed by their partners or a family member. An overwhelming 70 percent of women in the U.S. experience sexual harassment. The statistics rank rape among some of the most pervasive human rights crises in the world, yet it is one of the least reported.

Sexual assault is under-reported because it is often unpunished but also because the police themselves, to whom the reports are made, use sexual assault as a tool of repression. According to LaTesis’ Sibila Sotomayor during an interview : “In general, only 8 percent of rape cases in Chile end with some type of condemnation, so clearly there is something systemically at the level of public policies that is not working.” In the United States, only 4 out of 10 rapes are reported.

The viral song and performance refer to the Chilean police (carabineros) and satirizes the Chilean police slogan “A friend on your path.” According to a report by the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) on Nov. 30, there have been approximately 508 complaints filed against the Chilean police since the protests began.

The Chilean militarized police have left at least 23 dead, 2,300 injured and 7,000 detained Women participating in the protests have brought numerous cases and allegations of Chilean police sexually assaulting them. Currently, there are 74 allegations of rape as well as reports that police forced women to undress and sexually abused them.

The global epidemic of sexual violence perpetuated against women is a remnant of women’s historic status as property that derives from the emergence of class society. The ongoing fight for the equality of women and the eradication of misogynistic violence is an international one. Women across the globe are mobilizing to demand the end oppression and inequality. As the popularity of ‘Un Violador en Tu Camino’ demonstrates, we can create a formidable movement for revolution and liberation when we join together in large numbers!

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Nazi weapons are heading for the East — with no concern for human rights

Israeli weapons are heading for the East — with no concern for human rights

We don’t know all the countries Israel’s secretive arms industry is targeting for future sales. What we do know is that the people of Myanmar, Kashmir, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Palestine, and others will pay the price.

By Sahar Vardi 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and former mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav pose with Indian soldiers during a ceremony for Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War, at the British cemetery in Haifa, July 6, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and former mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav pose with Indian soldiers during a ceremony for Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War, at the British cemetery in Haifa, July 6, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/GPO)

During a ride on a small bus in the Cambodian countryside, a Vietnamese tour guide asked where I was from. When I answered Israel, he smiled and said that Israel is a strong country, and that the country’s relationship with Vietnam was growing. It turned out that this “relationship” he was referring had to do with police and military training.

Traveling around the world, I am used to people describing their experiences with other Israelis, reacting to our politics and the occupation, or making remarks about the “holy land.” That’s why the tour guide’s reaction was so intriguing: how is it that Israeli security training is the first thing that comes to the mind of someone who not only lives on the other side of the world, but has no relation to the military establishment?

Over the past decade, Israel’s ever-growing arms industry has increasingly shifted its focus from the west, with Europe and the Americas as its main clients, to the east, with India now being the largest importer of Israeli arms in the world. The International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israeli Ministry of Defense (SIBAT) published a new plan last week to expand its global exports. Along increasing outreach and sales by small military companies, SIBAT will be focusing on six countries — the U.S., Finland, India, and three unnamed countries in Asia — as targets for weapons exports.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

Traditionally, Israel’s arms exports have enjoyed advantageous positions in the global market due to three factors. First and foremost, Israeli weapons and tactics are viewed as “battle proven” products – that is, they are constantly tested on Palestinians in the occupied territories. Second, they lack human rights conditions or restrictions on the selling of arms – as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte put it after instructing his military to buy arms from Israel only, “if we buy [from the US and other countries] there are limitations.”

Third, the exports rely on a very close relationship between the Israeli political system, the military establishment, and the military industrial complex. As SIBAT’s Director Yair Kulas made clear to the Israeli business paper Globes, “We have learned that there are countries with whom, if the Ministry of Defense does not take an active role, there will be no deals with Israeli companies. We are aiming at these countries, among others. When we aren’t there, deals are channeled to U.S. or French companies.”

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a tour of the Israel Aerospace Industries, November 23, 2010. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a tour of the Israel Aerospace Industries, November 23, 2010. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

These three factors make Asia very appealing to Israeli arms exporters as they search for new markets to sell weapons intended for large-scale “crowd control” and “urban warfare,” with little to no regard for human rights. These are the same countries that are likely buying arms from Israel in order to form a strategic, international, right-wing alliance. So, the question to ask is: who are SIBAT’s three unnamed Asian buyers?

From surveillance to war crimes

India is already named by SIBAT as one of Israel’s strategic priorities. Since his election in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who has a strong personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has overseen seen a peak in India’s arms imports and particularly from Israel. In 2017, the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was awarded contracts in India totaling almost $2 billion, making it the single largest deal ever signed by the Israeli arms industry. The relationship is further strengthened by the manufacturing of Israeli arms in India, and with India allegedly using Israeli spyware to conduct surveillance on its own citizens. That leaves several options for the three “unnamed” countries.

Israel’s political and economic ties to the Philippines have also been growing, with a highly-publicized visit by Duterte to Israel in September 2018. From 2014 to 2018, Israel was the fourth largest exporter of arms to the Philippines, with $52 million worth of weapons sales over those five years. These figures have rapidly increased: in 2019 alone, Israel will sell at least $174 million in arms to the Philippines, including mortar carriers and drones, thus making Israel the largest arms exporter to the country. Interestingly, Israel initially published a $153 million drone deal as a sale to the Philippines, but changed the recipient a few days later to a “Southeast Asian country.” Other deals signed this year with unnamed “Southeast Asian” and “Asian Pacific” countries have been worth over $200 million.

Thailand has lately re-emerged as a substantial client of the Israeli arms industry. According to the UN Registry of Conventional Arms, from 2017 to 2018, Israeli sales to the country doubled from $9 million to $18 million. However, the actual unreported deals signed between the countries were much higher. In 2018, Israel sold four Hermes 450 drones for $28 million to Thailand, making it the second country in Asia (after Singapore) to acquire the drones. Another sale was completed in 2019, suggesting that other unreported transactions may have also taken place.

Singapore’s relationship with the Israeli military dates back to 1965, when six Israeli officers were sent to help establish the Singapore Army, including by conducting its first officers’ course and consulting on its military structure. Since then, Israel and Singapore have signed dozens of deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the past five years, the two countries have only reported $61 million worth of arms sales between them, although the figure is likely much higher. Just this year, the Singapore military accidentally made public (and quickly removed) an image of its Israeli-made Heron 1 drones, as well as Hermes 450 and Spider drones.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen shaking hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, during a visit to Azerbaijan, December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen shaking hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, during a visit to Azerbaijan, December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Myanmar’s relationship with the Israeli military is much smaller in scale, but still significant. A UN report from August 2019 accused 15 companies from seven countries, including Israel, of selling military hardware since 2016 to a division of Myanmar’s military known as the Tatmadaw Special Operations Task Force, during its brutal campaign against the Rohingya minority which drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya and into neighboring Bangladesh. The military has been widely accused of committing crimes against humanity in the country’s Northern Rakhine State.

In September 2015, during a visit by Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Israel announced it would be selling the country Super Dvora III patrol boats; according to reports by the Myanmar navy, the ships were delivered in April 2017. In October 2016, an Israeli military and police equipment and training company, known as TAR Ideal Concepts, posted photographs on its website of its personnel training the Tatmadaw Special Operations Taskforce. Widespread criticism of Israeli arms sales to Myanmar could mean that the arms exports will stop – but the fact that Israel knowingly sold weapons to the regime in the first place says a great deal about its lack of human rights considerations.

No transparency

Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan should also be considered the possible “unnamed” countries in Asia. Kazakhstan’s ties to Israel are new and likely to grow following a recent agreement to not only buy Israeli drones, but to begin manufacturing them in Kazakhstan. This reflects a general shift in Israeli arms sales strategy, whereby manufacturing is increasingly moving overseas as part of Israel’s efforts to secure long-term military cooperation with various countries.

With Azerbaijan, Israel has been the country’s second largest arms exporter (after Russia) over the past five years with sales of $789 millionThese weapons – which ignore the E.U. arms embargo on the country since 1991, and the U.S.’s de facto policy not to sell arms to it – are used both in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia and for domestic repression within the country itself. In 2016, Netanyahu visited Azerbaijan and announced that the military deals between the two countries had reached $5 billion; these included drones that were used to bomb Armenia.

In 2014, Israel’s then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited Azerbaijan following the war on Gaza, which “showcased” Israel’s lethal military technology against Palestinians. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said after the visit: “We have beaten the Armenians in politics, we have beaten them in economics, and now we will beat them in the battlefield, destroy their villages and cities and get back our land. We have the most advanced weapons in the world.” Many of those weapons are Israeli.

With the Israeli arms industry operating under a near-total absence of transparency, we may never know exactly which countries Israel plans on targeting for future sales. What we do know for certain, though, is that Israel’s arms sales are rapidly expanding in the east; that those arms sales completely ignore all human rights concerns; and that the people of Myanmar, Kashmir, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pattani, Palestine, and many others will be the ones paying the price.

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‘Islamophobia a bogus label’: Jewish Chronicle under fire over article

Melanie Phillips says that the term ‘is used to silence criticism of Islamic world’

Jim Waterson

Melanie Phillips, journalist and political commentator
 The Board of Deputies of British Jews criticised Phillips’ claims and said ‘anti-Muslim prejudice is real’. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

The Jewish Chronicle has come under criticism from Jewish groups after it published an article by Melanie Phillips claiming that Islamophobia is a bogus term that provides cover for antisemites.

Philips, who also writes for the Times, wrote in the newspaper that the entire concept of Islamophobia was “profoundly anti-Jew” and had been invented to mimic antisemitism, adding: “To equate it with the dehumanising, insane and essentially murderous outpourings of Jew-hatred is obscene.”

She said “the taunt of Islamophobia is used to silence any criticism of the Islamic world, including Islamic extremism” and “facilitates” antisemitism.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the publication of this piece was an error: “Anti-Muslim prejudice is very real and it is on the rise. Our community must stand as allies to all facing racism.”Advertisement

In a statement issued following the uproar, the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, Stephen Pollard, did not express regret for publishing the piece but acknowledged it had been divisive.

“A number of people within the Jewish community, and friends of the community, have expressed their dismay – and anger – at its content. No editor of a serious publication wants such a reaction. The Jewish Chronicle does not seek to provoke but to inform and prompt sensible debate. So when there is such a reaction I take it very seriously and I apologise to any reader who is angered or upset by the piece.”

He said the article “reflects an argument about the origins and utility of the notion of Islamophobia, as opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry”, adding that he would be publishing a number of opposing views.

Last month, the newspaper was forced by the press regulator IPSO to issue a correction after it could not substantiate claims made in an article about alleged bullying of Jewish MP Louise Ellman, then with Labour, in Liverpool by a party activist.

The regulator concluded the Jewish Chronicle “had not been able to demonstrate that it had taken care over the accuracy of the article” on certain points, and its conduct during the subsequent investigation had been “unacceptable”.

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