Archive | February 8th, 2020

Palestinian recounts brutal Nazi dog attack: ‘I bled for two and a half hours’

This is a long-standing policy used by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians, says Max Blumenthal.

Mabruk Jarrar, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, was savagely mauled by Israeli military dog during a raid on his home in the occupied West Bank. Here, he recounts his horrific experience.


While Israeli occupation authorities insist that this was an isolated incident, reports on the ground seem to suggest otherwise.

“I woke up when I heard explosions, I looked to my house door and it was destroyed by IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] bomb,” Jarrar, told RT’s Ruptly video agency, from his hospital bed.

As he gathered his family in the bedroom, he heard several more explosions, one of which took down the main house door before he was set upon by the dog.

“I saw one dog that started to attack me and bit my shoulder. Then, it started to bite my leg. I was screaming,” he continued. “After I was bleeding for more than two hours and a half, they took me to the hospital.”

The savage mauling, which left Jarrar in need of a skin graft, took place on February 3, during an operation in Jarrar’s home village of Burkin.

Israeli occupation forces were searching for someone, who allegedly killed an Israeli Jewish settler –Rabbi Raziel Shevach.

During the raid, the soldiers also forced Jarrar’s wife, mother and disabled sister to strip for a body search, and arrested his two brothers, one of whom remains in custody.

“I consider it a war crime. They attacked my home and frightened my children and my wife,” Jarrar said.

‘Long-standing policy’

According to journalist Max Blumenthal, the use of attack dogs on Palestinians is part of a long-standing policy.

“This is being cast by the Israeli military and government as kind of an isolated incident, but, as any of us who follow the situation in the West Bank, this is far from isolated.

“It is part of a clear policy of using dogs as an advance team during home raids on Palestinians,” Blumenthal told RT, noting the high-profile case of 16-year-old Hamzeh abu-Hashem, accused of throwing stones at soldiers in 2015.

A representative of Breaking the Silence, an organisation comprised of former Israeli soldier, told RT, at the time, that such cases are “not unusual.”

“These dogs apply 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, and Israeli soldiers were taunting him on video,” continued Blumenthal.

“And, now, Hamzeh abu-Hashem and the Palestinian rights group Al-Haq are suing not Israel, but actually the Dutch company Four Winds K9 – which has supplied what it calls biting dogs to the Israeli military – for violating UN conventions on companies operating in conflict zones.

So this is a very significant lawsuit and it speaks to a wider policy of what the Israeli dissident journalist Gideon Levy calls ‘lynching by dog.’”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Palestinian recounts brutal Nazi dog attack: ‘I bled for two and a half hours’

What Next for Bernie?

by ANDREW LEVINE

Sen. Bernie Sanders Attends Rally For Nevada Democrats In Las Vegas


Last week’s deluge of dust is finally settling.

As of this writing, nothing is yet official, and the DNC is calling for a total recanvassing of the results – perhaps they hope (without good reason) that this would somehow help their man Joe Biden and harm Bernie Sanders — but it is plain that Sanders and Boy Wonder Mayor Pete are effectively tied in the race for “state delegate equivalents” in the Iowa caucuses, and that Sanders has a small but significant lead in the popular vote.

When only about two-thirds of the results had been released, the media slant, since Biden was plainly a lost cause, had been that Buttigieg would win; indeed, that he had already all but done so.

He did do better than most people thought he would. That is bad news, sort of. But it was a forgone conclusion that one or another “moderate” would emerge from the pack before long. As well him as another. Meanwhile, the Iowa Democratic Party has taken a hit, and the caucus system along with it.

The good news is that Biden came in fourth. The former Vice President was clobbered not only by the two progressive candidates, but also by the mayor of a medium sized Indiana city who had never even won a statewide election before. This won’t be enough for Democratic Party grandees and their media flunkies to decide to send him back to pasture, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Then, the day after the caucuses, Donald Trump, the worst American president ever, delivered the dumbest, most mendacious, and most belligerent State of the Union address in U.S. history. It was essentially his campaign rally speech, but with a tad less red meat thrown in for his base.

Along with impeachment, that speech seems to have caused his approval ratings to rise, almost to fifty percent. Evidently, in Trump’s America, despicability (“deplorability” in Clintonese) radiates out.

On the plus side, some Democrats boycotted the speech and others walked out; best of all, Nancy Pelosi tore up her copy when it was all over.

But, as is their wont, most Democrats were civil to a fault; indeed, way beyond a fault. Why, for instance, with the cameras running, did they not all lose their dinners when the Donald had his aging trophy bride bestow the Medal of Freedom on one of the pioneer buffoons of rightwing talk radio, the heinous and mortally ill but still bloviating Rush Limbaugh, aka “the driveling dirigible?”

In other “breaking news” – these days there seems to be no other kind – there was Trump’s acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial, notwithstanding the fact that he had been proved guilty as sin, many times over and far beyond any reasonable doubt.

Then he spent the next day congratulating himself and the Republican Party (minus Mitt Romney) for “vindicating” his sorry ass. Unless that was his guile talking, the man is utterly without self-awareness or shame.

***

It goes without saying that the world would now be far better off had Hillary Clinton, the Queen of Chaos, as per the title of Diana Johnstone’s 2015 book, and of ineptitude, and the very embodiment of the neoliberal-liberal imperialist-corporate and Wall Street friendly politics that made Trump possible, not managed to lose in 2016. She lost to a third-rate conman and reality TV character, an amoral narcissist whose every word, tweeted or uttered aloud, is a transparent lie.

That took some doing. Bill Clinton gave opportunism a bad name; now Hillary has done the same for rank incompetence. Go Clintons!

And, believe it or not, with another presidential election looming, there she is again, fuming against Sanders and going into hiding to avoid being served with a subpoena arising out of Tulsi Gabbard’s defamation suit. Clinton accused Gabbard of being groomed to be a Russian agent. She must have been channeling her inner Trump, perhaps even her inner Roy Cohn. The difference is that she has no Dershowitz ready to mouth off about how she has every right.

Towards Gabbard, she and her media buddies are merely dismissive and condescending. Towards Sanders it is something else altogether; she is going after him with all the vim and vinegar she and her pitiful loyalists can muster. Even James Carville is in on the act; still hideous after all these years.

No surprise that she would blame the rival that she and Debbie WTF Schultz’s DNC rigged the nomination process against for her 2016 loss; she blames everything and everybody but herself. It is her way.

The truth is, though, that once Sanders threw in the towel, he campaigned for her more times than she and Bill together can shake a stick at.

In short, Hillary is a piece of work.

Like many others, I had hoped that one of the few good things to come from her defeat would be that for a while at least, unless and until Chelsea gets the bug, we wouldn’t have Clintons to kick around anymore. But that nasty woman won’t give up.

Nearly everyone took it for granted that Clinton would win in 2016. Trump ran to boost his brand; Sanders to get his ideas out and to move the Democratic Party leftward. Perhaps, as many thought at the time, he also ran to keep justifiably wary progressives on board the Clinton bandwagon. These seemed like reasonable motives at the time.

But Clinton and the Clintonism she espouses defeated these expectations.

The good news is that, despite her efforts, Sanders’ views have not just gotten a hearing; they have taken root and flourished.

The bad news, of course, is that while the Trump brand may have taken a hit, Trump himself, along with Ivanka and Jared, and Trump’s idiot adult sons, aided and abetted by the kakistocrats they have empowered, have given the lie to the formerly comforting thought that, no matter how inane and shallow our politics becomes, “it can’t happen here.”

“It,” of course, refers to home-grown American fascism of the kind that Sinclair Lewis wrote about in his thusly named1935 novel, and to what Philip Roth had in mind in The Plot Against America (2005). “Kakistocracy” is a venerable but much underused term meaning rule of the worst, the most inept and most vile.

Sanders got, and deserved, criticism for all he did for Hillary four years ago; she got and still gets far too little for being a first-class ingrate.

Sanders did nearly all he could, but he could not do the impossible; he could not get his supporters enthused.

Many Americans, some three million or more than voted for Trump, understood that, compared to the alternative, Clinton was of course the lesser evil. But hardly anyone who was not a woman of a certain age intent on seeing a woman elected president in her lifetime could actually enthuse over the prospect.

Had Sanders split the Democratic Party back then, either by going over to the Greens or by running independently, he would have made himself politically unviable in much the way that Ralph Nader did twenty years ago, but to a far greater extent.

Of course, we now know that Hillary would have lost anyway; that she assured her own defeat regardless of anything Sanders might have done. Prospectively, though, no one could have known this for sure, no matter how inconceivable a Trump victory may once have seemed.

Therefore, the good that would have come by striking a blow at our disabling duopoly party system, and therefore at “bipartisanship,” would likely have been more than outweighed by the harm that would have been done to the prospects for making the Democratic Party more than just a perennial lesser evil after the 2016 election was over.

How successful the Sanders campaign will be over the next few months in that monumental endeavor remains to be seen.

Success depends on Democratic voters not falling for the torrent of nonsense spewing forth from corporate media scribblers and chatterers – MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is an especially egregious example — and from politicians on the campaign trail about the purported virtues of “moderation.”

Let’s be clear: moderation is about keeping that wretched party’s establishment — and its “donor class,” as Sanders calls their paymasters — in power. Sanders is hardly a radical, but it is a good bet that, in their hearts, those miscreants would rather keep him out of power even more than they want to see the Donald go.

Luckily for them, and unluckily for the world, they can easily deny the evidence that is so readily at hand, the lesson of the 2016 election above all, because they seem to have common sense on their side. That would be the kind of common sense that, say, led physicians years ago to insist on patients remaining bedridden for long stretches of time after major operations.

That advice seemed so obvious that it hardly even needed to be tested against the evidence. In time, however, countervailing evidence became impossible to ignore. A sounder approach would have become apparent sooner, but for the fact that sometimes things worked out satisfactorily for surgery patients anyway; not because of excessive bedrest, but in spite of it.

More likely than not, something much like that would be the case in the 2020 election, even if Democrats again go moderate, as they did in 2016. If Trump continues to decompose mentally in plain sight, and as more facts about his past and present seep through the seemingly impermeable skulls of his supporters, even moderates, even Biden, should have no trouble defeating him. This would be a far surer outcome, however, were the Democrats to nominate Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

There is some irony in the fact that, at the same time that the chances of getting anything good, rather than merely less bad, out of the Democratic Party have improved – thanks mainly to Sanders’ campaigns and the 2018 elections – moderates have become even worse than they used to be.

The Democratic Party’s donors vetted Barack Obama out the wazoo before the 2008 election, as did the party’s establishment. He passed these tests with flying colors. The powers that be wanted a moderate, and that is what they got.

They also got someone who was intelligent, cautious, and wise; and who, like Jacky Robinson, was a good choice for breaking through the color line. Before Obama picked him to be his running mate, Biden, being Biden, praised him for being “articulate and clean.” He was more than that.

However, his virtues did not stop him from becoming President Drone, the Deporter-in-Chief; and they didn’t stop him from saving the banks after the financial debacle of 2007 and 2008, but not the people that neoliberal banking practices brought to ruin.

On the plus side, though, his moderation didn’t stop him from moving the country closer to regarding health care as a right, albeit by moving forward in disabling ways and in baby steps, or from keeping neocon and liberal imperialist chicken hawks, Democratic and Republican alike, from expanding the Bush-Cheney wars beyond Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Israel lobby was, and still is, eager for the United States to launch a potentially catastrophic war against Iran; so were the Saudis and their allies among the Gulf states; and so were the neocons in America’s foreign policy establishment, people like John Bolton, the odious creature now deemed “the adult in the room” by the liberal commentariat. To his credit, Obama held these pressures off as best he could.

And while he was not above Cold War revivalism or going after China – his administration’s euphemism was “pivoting” towards Asia — he was not especially gung-ho about that either. In short, he was about as good as a Clintonite could be.

Unfortunately, that would be not good at all – not good in its own right, and not good for having laid down the foundations for Trump’s rise to power.

A Hillary presidency would have been a third Obama term only worse; and, while times have changed, it is still relevant that Biden is worse even than she.

Every initiative of consequence that Clinton has ever taken on has come to a bad end – from Hillarycare in her stint as First Lady, to Honduras, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and so on in her Madam Secretary days. Biden, however, has never been right about anything.

Arguably, some of the other moderates, even Buttigieg, are marginally better, but each and every one of them is bad news too.

And now, as if the mainstream Democratic Party isn’t already bad enough, the DNC has given hyper-billionaire Michael Bloomberg its imprimatur.

If Bloomberg wants to throw away his money on TV advertisements or whatever — a pittance for him, but nevertheless a king’s ransom even in a process that already runs on obscene levels of spending – then by all means let him do it. Think of it as a stimulus package with a message that, even when not overtly noxious, would be well countered by chants of “Eat the Rich.”

Tom Steyer is at least a good billionaire; his express positions are in no way worse than the best that any of the moderates have to offer. But Bloomberg is already leaving him standing in the dust.

In any case, the idea that only billionaires can save us, is a lot less appealing than it once seemed, especially now that Sanders has shown how “we, the people” can mobilize to save ourselves.

***

Billionaire Bloomberg’s candidacy, like Clinton’s pleadings and, most amazing of all, John Kerry’s musings about entering the race himself – so far he is still a Biden surrogate — show how firmly resolved the anti-Trump sectors of the ruling class are. They are determined to keep their power intact, to cede nothing or almost nothing. No fundamental challenges allowed!

If all goes exceedingly well, the Sanders campaign could lead to fundamental changes, but hardly anything that Bernie is now proposing is at all radical. Even so, it is enough to cause the powers that be to circle round the wagons.

It is no longer just a matter of CNN and MSNBC, and our “quality” press, “reporting” on the electoral circus as if the Sanders campaign weren’t happening. Eventually, what we might call, following Freud, “the Reality Principle” made that strategy unsustainable. A no-holds-barred corporate assault is therefore underway. Expect it to intensify mightily in the weeks and months ahead.

In much the way that the UK’s Brexit vote presaged Clinton’s ignominious self-inflicted defeat, the attack on Jeremy Corbyn, by Blairites and other neoliberal UK ruling class toadies, and by the British version of our Israel lobby, portends what will soon be coming down here. Corbyn’s honorable but self-defeating way of dealing with the situation also offers lessons on what not to do.

Corbyn’s socialism was more socialist than Sanders’, and, unlike Sanders, he has been a true and consistent anti-imperialist throughout his long political career.

Nevertheless, outside some still marginal Congressional quarters, Sanders is the best, perhaps the only, friend the Palestinians have in mainstream American politics at the national level; and his opposition both to Islamophobia and to genuine anti-Semitism is as good as it gets on our shores.

Needless to say, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, much less criticisms of Israeli governments and their ethnocratic policies, are not the same thing, notwithstanding the decades long efforts of Zionists in Israel and around the world to identify the two. Their latest ruse is “the working definition of anti-Semitism” proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a bit of tendentious chicanery that rightwing and centrist governments and institutions have taken up with glee. By identifying anti-Semitism with morally defensible political positions that are in no way anti-Semitic, the IHRA definition aids precisely what it purports to combat.

The positions Sanders takes on Israel-Palestine are actually quite “moderate” – he even still promotes the so-called “two-state solution,” despite the fact that, thanks to Israeli settlements policies, there is hardly any land left for a viable and independent Palestinian state. Even so, his views, essentially the views of most voters, including Jewish voters, too young to draw Social Security pensions, are way out in left field compared to those of the Democratic Party’s grandees.

Corbyn was shamelessly smeared not quite for being an anti-Semite – that charge would be too preposterous even for the likes of a Dershowitz to level – but for not fighting Labor Party anti-Semitism militantly enough. That charge too was nonsensical but, like so much of the nonsense that the Israel lobbies of the world promote, it did gain traction and resonate.

Sanders and his supporters should prepare for AIPAC et. al. to launch a full Corbyn against him. Since he is Jewish and proud of it, they will have a hard time calling him an anti-Semite. Expect, however, to hear a lot about “self-hating Jews.”

The way to deal with this, and also with the broader corporate assault upon his candidacy, is not to turn defensive. That was Corbyn’s mistake. It is to go on the offense with all the might that Sanders and his supporters can muster.

This will involve threading the needle with care. Even before Mitch McConnell, taking time off from packing the federal judicial system with retrogrades and troglodytes, engineered a Senate impeachment trial that was, as even Chuck Schumer was moved to say, “perfidious,” it was plain that the Republican Party, the party of the spineless, base, and servile, would never let Trump be convicted and removed from office.

And so, the task falls to the electorate – assuming, of course, that Trump won’t somehow manage to abrogate the election results if they don’t go his way.

On that score, Democrats ought now to be preparing for what they will do should Trump encourage the hardcore “deplorables” who crawled out from under the rocks he overturned to rampage in ways that disrupt the normal transfer of power. That certainly could happen here.

However, for even a peaceful electoral rebuke to come out well, not just in the first week of November, but also in the many weeks, months, and years after that, it will be necessary to assure that what ought to be a tactical alliance only does not turn into a strategic retreat.

From a strategic point of view, Rashid Tlaib was absolutely right to call on her supporters to boo the name of Hillary Clinton, and to lead them in that derisive, and much criticized, performance herself. But that bit of political theatre was injudicious at a tactical level at this point in time.

It is like when anti-fascist protestors disrupt Trumpian speakers. Then attention turns to the morality of the disruption itself, not to the morality of what the disruption was about.

There can be times when disruption does do more good than harm, but those times seldom arise. Tlaib was forced to apologize for booing because she was insufficiently sensitive to situations of that kind.

Civility and militancy can go hand in hand, however; and, for progressives obliged to make common cause with Clintonite Democrats, it will be imperative to find ways to do precisely that.

Sanders, so far, has shown a way. The task for his followers is to follow his lead, but also not to let him give in strategically the way he did – perhaps wisely, perhaps not — in 2016.

***

Sanders would also to do well to follow Warren’s example, when she started campaigning with Julián Castro. For her, a Latino male from Texas, a state with plenty of electoral votes, that could conceivably go Democratic this year, is just what the doctor ordered.

African Americans, it seems, are still largely in Biden’s corner. Of all the Democrats running, he would almost certainly do them the least good, but many older, less progressive African Americans don’t seem to get it; in their minds, Biden is Obama’s best buddy, and Obama is the next best thing to God.

In truth, what Obama did for African Americans, he did mainly just by being there. In nearly all other ways, his administration had precious little to boast of. The only significant exception was how, on Obama’s watch, already enacted civil rights laws were generally well-enforced. That was mainly the doing of his Attorney General, Eric Holder.

However that may be, times have changed; just being there isn’t enough anymore.

Thus, Cory Booker, another Wall Street friendly African American Senator, has not been able to gain traction, even though he is, in many respects, more Obama-like than Obama himself. For much the same reason, Daval Patrick’s candidacy has been, so far at least, all but stillborn.

Kamala Harris too has been unable to play the “of color” card to her advantage. Poor Kamala, she had not been able to play the female card well either. Could it be because she has prosecutor written all over her?

I used to joke about how she would make a fine head of the secret police. I would now say that if she really wouldn’t rather stay in the Senate, that she would probably make a fine Attorney General.

Were that to be her fate, we could take comfort in the fact that she does not seem likely to let certifiable criminals from the Trump administration, including Trump himself and his adult children (minus Tiffany and plus Jared), off the hook. That would put her many notches above Holder whose inclination, like Obama’s, was to give Bush-Cheney era war criminals a pass.

Despite her reported flirtations with the Biden camp, and her lately acquired determination to walk on the moderate side, Harris probably still could redeem herself by becoming Bernie’s Castro.

Ayanna Pressley would be more politically compatible and would surely be better for enthusing the base. But she is committed for the time being to Elizabeth Warren and would probably not want to renege on that commitment. Also, she is from Massachusetts, a state whose Electoral Votes are already in the Democratic Party’s pocket.

I wonder whether Val Demings might serve the purpose. Among the many good things the impeachment exercise accomplished was to bring her to national attention.

Compared to some of the other impeachment managers, especially the Cold War mongering Jason Crow and Hakeem Jeffries, and even Adam Schiff at his most Clintonesque moments, her performance both at the House impeachment inquiry and then in the Senate “trial” was admirable.

If she too is obsessed with the mainstream Democratic Party’s storyline about the wickedness of Vladimir Putin and those pesky Russians he keeps under his thumb, and is smitten by the purported righteousness of freedom-loving (actually, fascistically inclined) Ukrainians, it didn’t show.

Demings used to be a cop and then a police chief; this is not necessarily a bad thing. Better a cop than a prosecutor, and better than most, indeed nearly all, businesswomen or men.

However, Demings’ membership in the New Democrat Coalition, an agglomeration of Clintonites and other moderates, is worrisome. Perhaps she is there more out of political necessity than conviction. This should be fairly easily to ascertain once journalists and political operatives take an interest in finding out.

Perhaps because she was a cop, Demings seems tough as nails in ways that would cohere well with, but also complement, Bernie. Best of all, she is from Florida, a swing state with nearly as many Electoral College votes as Texas.

In short, if her politics is or seems like it could soon become consistent with Sanders’, she could be just what Team Bernie needs. It is worth looking into.

Sanders and many of his supporters go on about how they are making a “political revolution.”

They are indeed doing a lot to make America great again – not in any way that Trump and his hardcore followers are equipped to understand, but in the way that only a continuation of the best aspects of New Deal-Great Society politics can.

Sanders is a good liberal in the true American sense, a homegrown social democrat; revolution is not what he is about.

Even so, thanks to Trump, and despite Clinton and the mainstream Democratic Party, it could fairly be said of his supporters that, if all goes well, their movement could indeed take on a revolutionary character in the fullness of time. It could also be said that, even now, there is a world to win.

A suitable running mate, chosen sooner than later, preferably before the Nevada and South Carolina primaries, would help mightily in that regard.

A not very old, female running mate “of color,” who could become a fine president herself in the Bernie mold should the need arise, would help not just in the general election to come, but also in the primaries and caucuses more immediately ahead, where, in the face of a party establishment and ruling class onslaught, the obstacles Sanders – or if it must come to that, Warren – will have to defeat are panning out to be considerably more formidable than the obstacles either of them would face running against Trump.

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21st Century Socialism

by LOUIS PROYECT

Photograph Source: Rwmosgrove – CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifty years ago, Peter Camejo ran for Senator from Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy. He didn’t win but did manage to recruit many young people to socialism through a stump speech filled with jokes. One of them had to do with life under socialism. There would be such an abundance of goods that money would no longer be necessary. He’d say something like this: “You go to a grocery store and there is filet mignon. Nothing would prevent you from sticking a dozen under your jacket and sneaking out. But instead of being arrested for shoplifting, you’d be referred to a psychotherapist for doing something so crazy. All you can eat is one, right?”

Today, it would be difficult to make such a speech since we are far too aware of the costs to the planet from cattle ranching. Most socialists are speaking about the need to prevent the Amazon rainforest from being leveled to the ground. Do we accelerate global warming to supply beef to fast-food restaurants? If Peter were alive today, he’d be among the loudest voices against Bolsonaro.

In his 1970 campaign, Peter was trying to popularize the ideas found in Leon Trotsky’s 1934 article “If American Goes Communist.”  Trotsky’s words sound somewhat crass as if he were making a sales pitch to men in the admittedly backward but wealthy country: “The average man doesn’t like systems or generalities either. It is the task of your communist statesmen to make the system deliver the concrete goods that the average man desires: his food, cigars, amusements, his freedom to choose his own neckties, his own house and his own automobile. It will be easy to give him these comforts in Soviet America.”

Since Trotskyists were not in power anywhere, they were under no obligation to cope with the brutal realities of economic development like the Sandinistas put up during the 1980s. They were content to criticize them from afar, their stock in trade.

They explained the Soviet failure to match American productivity in the 1950s and 60s as a function of bureaucratic rule. If the USSR returned to its democratic roots, the workers would forge ahead and produce all the food, cigars and amusements that Stalinism could not. But history played a trick on the Trotskyists. Instead of a socialist utopia, the Russians ended up with a capitalist dystopia under Yeltsin. While Russia recovered from Jeffrey Sachs’s shock therapy, it still staggers along economically because of oil market vicissitudes and imperialist sanctions. Discontent, however, hardly produces anything resembling a Trotskyist new wave. Instead, opposition to Putin remains within time-dishonored liberal economic parameters.

In debates over whether socialism was feasible or not, Trotskyism had little to offer except formulaic assurances that workers democracy would set things right. The big debates happened elsewhere and were over whether a planned economy, democratic or undemocratic, could work as efficiently as the capitalist marketplace. Friedrich von Hayek and Ludwig von Mises wrote numerous books and articles arguing that planning in and of itself necessarily leads to an irrational and inefficient allocation of resources. Following in their path, Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan reinforced libertarian orthodoxy. It was only the 2008 financial crisis that shook the confidence of the Republican Party establishment with Greenspan confessing: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Jeffrey Sachs had a similar epiphany after seeing how his version of market-driven economics failed to produce miracles in Bolivia, Poland or Russia. Now writing articles defending Bernie Sanders against charges that he is a “radical,” Sachs sounds like he has imbibed Trotskyist literature: “The ruling class—dominated by billionaires like Donald Trump and the vested interests that prop him up—have played the same name-calling game for decades.”

Despite the fiery rhetoric targeting billionaires, neither Sanders nor Sachs has given up on the capitalist system. Like Hayek, they regard markets as a sine qua non for rational economic behavior. When Elizabeth Warren described the difference between her and Sanders as “He’s a socialist, and I believe in markets,” she was inaccurate. They are both marketeers. You’ll never hear Sanders making a pitch for public ownership of the means of production and a planned economy. Briefly put, he is for Norway, not Cuba. He is too smart to sound like Peter Camejo’s 1970 stump speech since that will shut the doors to MSNBC and lucrative book contracts.

Almost everybody has a good word for markets today. NYU sociology professor Vivek Chibber, who Bhaskar Sunkara regards as a major influence, sounds positively Hayekian in an article he wrote for Jacobin’s special issue on the Russian Revolution:

“What is more challenging is the issue of economic planning. We have to start with the observation that the expectation of a centrally planned economy simply replacing the market has no empirical foundation. We can want planning to work, but we have no evidence that it can. Every attempt to put it in place for more than short durations has met with failure.”

Sam Gindin, who is far more revolutionary-minded than Chibber, also conceded the need for markets to Jacobin readers:

The power of capitalism, Hayek claimed, is that it brings such otherwise internalized, hidden knowledge to the surface while socialism, no matter how much it hopes to plan, cannot effectively access or develop the knowledge on which successful planning would rest.

For all its inherent ideological and class biases, this critique can’t be ignored. Hayek cannot be countered by arguing that capitalists themselves plan. Aside from the fact that the scale of organizing a total society in a nonmarket way is of a different order of magnitude than addressing a single, even vast, corporation, internal corporate calculations under capitalism have an advantage that centralized socialist planning would not have: they have external market prices and market-driven standards by which to measure themselves.

Much of this is reminiscent of the arguments I heard for Market Socialism 30 years ago when I discovered Internet mailing lists (this was prior to the Web, blogs and social media.) Throughout the 1980s, economists in the Soviet bloc blamed the lack of market mechanisms for all their problems. Alec Nove, a Scottish economist, identified with their grievances and called for a mixture of planning and markets. In his 1983 “The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited,” Nove hoped to debunk Lenin’s claim in “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” that “Capitalism has simplified the work of accounting and control, has reduced it to a comparatively simple system of bookkeeping, that any literate person can do.”

Striking the same note as Sam Gindin, Nove maintains that Lenin was naïve:

A large factory, for instance, making cars or chemical machinery, is an assembly plant of parts and components which can be made in literally thousands of different factories, each of which, in turn, may depend on supplies of materials, fuel and machines, made by hundreds or more other production units. Introduce the further dimension of time (things need to be provided punctually and in sequence), add the importance of provision for repair, maintenance, replacement, investment in future productive capacity, the training and deployment of the labor force, its needs for housing, amenities, hairdressers, dry-cleaners, fuel, furniture…’Simple’, indeed!

Markets, however, are not just about figuring out which drill-press to buy when you are investing a new factory that makes furniture. Nor, it is about figuring out how much to charge for a rocking chair that comes off the assembly line. It is about the price of labor. When a market can’t bear the price of a unionized worker in an American plant, capital will take wings and fly to places where labor is more affordable.

We are now well into the 21st century. Should we continue to see economic efficiency as a litmus test for a healthy socialist system? Why should we see like a state, as anarchist scholar James C. Scott put it? For Scott, men with few apparent similarities all adhered to a “high modernist” vision. High modernism’s goal was to expand production in agriculture and industry as the best way to meet human needs. For him, this included both Robert McNamara and Leon Trotsky. Such men believed that scientific knowledge was key to governing and producing according to a plan. That, at least, was Scott’s conclusion even though it is hard to see any kind of science or planning at work when McNamara was Secretary of Defense and bombing the hell out of Vietnam. A Hells Angel on methamphetamine would have likely made the same decisions based on the Cold War psychoses that made such a war possible.

The underlying but unstated assumption for the “high modernists” is that the nation-state must achieve economic growth on its own, like pulling itself up by its bootstraps. As long as capitalism has existed, politicians and political theorists shared this understanding. The 17th-century treaties of Westphalia established the bootstrap basis for nation-state economic development in Europe. Afterward, gunboats went forth and imposed this model on the rest of the world at the point of a bayonet. The model was well-suited to dividing and conquering Africa and the Middle East.

In the pre-modern world made up primarily of city-states funded by tributes extracted from peasants, there was little market-driven competition as we know it today. The Ottoman Empire was typical. It became “the sick man of Europe” because it failed to adopt the labor-saving machinery that capitalism was producing in the West. Like the USSR in the 20th century, it collapsed because it failed to compete in global markets. As long as the nation-state exists and as long as money is the basis for commodity exchange, a country like Cuba or the former Soviet Union has to play by the rules of global capitalism. Unless you can export commodities at a cheaper price than a competing nation-state, your economy will suffer, and the citizenry will grow restive.

A recent N.Y. Times article reminded me how restive Americans can become when the economy loses its competitive edge in the global marketplace. Titled “In Crucial Pennsylvania, Democrats Worry a Fracking Ban Could Sink Them,” it cited the state’s lieutenant-general John Fetterman, who proudly called his state “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Fracking was not only critical to the state’s economy, but to the “union way of life.” He worried that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s call for an immediate end to fracking would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. If given a choice between Donald Trump and environmental health, Pennsylvania’s workers would choose Trump even if it meant a higher cancer rate. The article quotes Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania: “At the end of the day, if I don’t have a job, if I don’t have health care, if I can’t take care of my family, it doesn’t matter if we have global peace and gun control and everything else.”

In Australia, climate change has already led to disastrous consequences. Will the death of billions of animals convince voters to follow a different path than Pennsylvanians? Perhaps not. Keep in mind that coal is Australia’s second-largest export behind iron ore. In 2016-17, it exported 202 million tons of thermal coal and 177 million tons of metallurgical coal with a combined value of $54 billion. The coal industry provided around 47,000 direct jobs and a further 120,000 indirect jobs across Australia.

In countries not endowed by plentiful reserves of oil, gas and coal, manufacturing provides the most reliable path to economic progress. Indeed, fossil fuels are subject to the chaotic speculation of global markets and that economists identify as the “resource curse” that keeps Venezuela dependent. (Of course, imperialist sanctions on both Venezuela and Iran are just as much to blame.) With China looming as a major competitor to the USA as the 21st century lurches forward, competitive pressures will likely force both countries to forsake environmental regulations and impose labor discipline to compete on the world market. Other nations will follow suit, as long as the profit motive remains sacrosanct.

In 1961, a musical titled “Stop the World—I Want to Get Off” opened first in England and then on Broadway. There are few revivals nowadays, but the title lives on as an apt description of how some people feel about late capitalism, especially when I read through the N.Y. Times in the morning. Unlike Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, I have neither the means nor the motivation to go live on Mars.

The 20th century was all about the competition between capitalism and socialism. Which system could best help prepare a nation-state for success in the next century? It was like trying to figure out whether a Harvard or a Yale degree would land you a better job. It turns out that both systems appear to be incapable of resolving the global contradictions that neither Hayek nor Trotsky anticipated. We know that capitalism doesn’t work except for the capitalist class. Why would I say the same thing about socialism? The answer: as long as we understand socialism to be co-equal with the nation-state, it will never succeed.

The Bolivarian revolution in Latin America faced insurmountable odds. While some on the left find it easy to fault Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales for not carrying out a genuine socialist revolution, they forget that classical Marxism ruled out building socialism in a single country. In 1847, Frederick Engels wrote a short work titled “The Principles of Communism” that took the form of a catechism. He posed questions that would be of interest to socialist-minded workers and then provided the answers. One of them was, “Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?” He replied:

No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.

Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany.

If that was true in 1847, it is a hundred times truer today. Electronic communications, the spread of capitalist property relations to every corner of the world, jet travel, multinational corporations, interlocking financial institutions, television and radio, and global trade agreements such as the WTO compel the socialist movement to adjust to new realities. The ruling classes have dozens of institutions that help sharpen their struggles against the working class. The World Economic Forum is just one of them. Meanwhile, workers try to solve their most pressing problems within national borders. We are not even where we were in the early 2000s when the World Social Forum met regularly in places like Porto Alegre in Brazil.

Engels counted on England, America, France, and Germany as the liberated territory that could help transform the rest of the world. The 20th century left pinned its hopes on Russia for most of the 20th century. More recently, clusters of nations in the global south have stepped into the breach. In my over half-century of Marxist advocacy and activism, I have seen the terrain shift. First, it was in Indochina, where Eisenhower warned about a “domino effect.” It turned out that he had little to worry about since the surrounding nations had little support from China, despite Mao’s phony revolutionism. Next, it shifted to Central America, where this time Soviet Russia pulled the plug. Nicaragua might have been the shining example that would have inspired other revolutions, but perestroika meant that it became a pawn the Kremlin was ready to sacrifice. The last and most promising development was the Bolivarian revolution that had the potential of transforming Latin America from top to bottom. Once again, this regional bloc of radical governments failed to meet expectations. Perhaps, the best explanation for their failure was to remain within the nation-state context. They might have taken their namesake Simon Bolivar’s advice to heart: “In the unity of our nations rests the glorious future of our peoples.”

If and when a new revolutionary bloc of nations emerges, its most urgent task will be to begin implementing a planned economy across borderlines. Whether planning is second-best to Hayekian markets is immaterial. The most pressing need is to share resources, technical expertise, and environmental preservation within the liberated territory as a demonstration that socialism can work. In a small way, Cuba’s ability to withstand the human costs of hurricanes, to feed and educate its people, and provide medical care on the island as well as around the world is more important than its ability to compete with other sugar-producing nations.

One understands why there is so little interest in thinking globally or regionally in advanced capitalist countries. In the USA, you get the most virulent form of nationalism because it is an empire. Does this have a disorienting effect on the left? While the Green New Deal contains many positive features, it is a program for the USA and not the planet.

Even if Bernie Sanders was elected President and joined by a majority of “democratic socialists” in Congress, the Green New Deal remains woefully national in scope. Poorer countries are now supplying fossil fuels that provide energy to wealthier ones. They will also be the source of the minerals that batteries require to store the energy windmills, solar panels, etc., generate. Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles will require up to 43% of the cobalt and 50% of the lithium produced globally. Those minerals are plentiful in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militias fight over mines as spoils of a brutal civil war. The Africans endure child labor, human rights violations, land grabs, and environmental pollution while Western corporations are busy making profits off of “Green” technology. If the marketplace governs the relations between nations rather than an overarching planned economy, can we expect the people living in the Congo to ever enjoy the living standards of Americans or even the right to live in peace?

In 1965, Che Guevara went to the Congo to fight for its liberation. He went where a fighter/doctor was needed. He joined Fidel Castro on the Granma in 1958 and then went to Bolivia in 1967. Argentine by nationality, he always saw himself as an internationalist. In a 1964 speech to the UN, Che denounced the imperialist exploitation of the Congo:

I would like to refer specifically to the painful case of the Congo, unique in the history of the modern world, which shows how, with absolute impunity, with the most insolent cynicism, the rights of peoples can be flouted. The direct reason for all this is the enormous wealth of the Congo, which the imperialist countries want to keep under their control. In the speech he made during his first visit to the United Nations, compañero Fidel Castro observed that the whole problem of coexistence among peoples boils down to the wrongful appropriation of other peoples’ wealth. He made the following statement: “End the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will be ended as well.”

Not content with words, he took action a year later to confront the imperialists on the battlefield. As we understand today, Che’s guerrilla warfare in both the Congo and Bolivia lacked the preparation carried out by the July 26th Movement in Cuba. His motivations were exemplary even if he failed to understand the importance of a mass movement to back up the armed struggle. With millions of people waking up to the dead-end of capitalism across the planet, we need to begin building a worldwide movement that can finally fulfill Che Guevara’s dream.

With all due respect to Leon Trotsky, our horizons should soar above consumer goods like food, cigars, neckties, and automobiles. Perhaps the obsession with markets today is a reflection of the consumer society we live in, with its fetishism of commodities. Bombarded by commercials for such goods continuously on television, leftists might end up fretting that socialism will never match capitalism’s ability to come up with a better smartphone or more elegant sunglasses.

Shouldn’t we be looking for other satisfactions? Like leisure time, or being able to watch a TV show without having pharmaceutical commercials six times an hour? Best of all, wouldn’t we prefer to live in a world where rivers and lakes are pristine? To not have to worry about nuclear war and epidemics capable of killing millions of people?

Finally, wouldn’t humanity prefer to have a different relationship to work? For the average person, the time spent at work is only meaningful for the wage it produces. Karl Marx had it right in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: “…the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working.”

In his 1965 “Socialism and Man in Cuba”, Che Guevara expanded on Karl Marx’s brief comment:

A person begins to become free from thinking of the annoying fact that one needs to work to satisfy one’s animal needs. Individuals start to see themselves reflected in their work and to understand their full stature as human beings through the object created, through the work accomplished. Work no longer entails surrendering a part of one’s being in the form of labor power sold, which no longer belongs to the individual, but becomes an expression of oneself, a contribution to the common life in which one is reflected, the fulfillment of one’s social duty.

These words are the beating heart of socialism. It is not a social system only designed to produce goods more efficiently than capitalism. It seeks to elevate humanity one step closer to the gods. Under the best of conditions, our planet will only be able to sustain human life for another billion years or so. With that in mind, we should begin the process of making the best of those years. After seeing what capitalism has done for the past 500 years or so, the socialist alternative makes perfect sense.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on 21st Century Socialism

Fouling Our Own Nest & Draining Our Wallets: It’s Time to Divest from Endless Wars

by GRETA ZARRO

Just one month into a new decade, we face an ever-increasing risk of nuclear apocalypse. The U.S. government’s assassination of Iranian General Soleimani on January 3 intensified the very real threat of another all-out war in the Middle East. On January 23, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists accordingly reset the Doomsday Clock to just 100 short seconds to midnight, apocalypse.

We are told that war is good to protect us from the “terrorists” but the return on the U.S. taxpayers’ $1 trillion a year investment in “defense spending” was slim to none from 2001-2014, when terrorism peaked. According to the Global Terrorism Index, terrorism actually increased during the so-called “war on terror,” at least up until 2014, finally slowing now in numbers of deaths but actually increasing in terms of numbers of countries suffering terror attacks.

Countless journalists, federal intelligence analysts, and former military officials have suggested that U.S. military interventions, including the drone program, may actually cause an increase in terrorist strength and activity, generating more violence than they prevent. Researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have demonstrated statistically that, from 1900 to 2006, nonviolent resistance was twice as successful as armed resistance and resulted in more stable democracies with less chance of reverting to civil and international violence.

War does not make us more safe; we are impoverishing ourselves by hemorrhaging taxpayer dollars on far-away wars that traumatize, wound, and kill our loved ones, along with millions of unnamed victims abroad.

Meanwhile, we’re fouling our own nest. The U.S. military is among the top three largest polluters of U.S. waterways. The military’s use of so-called “forever chemicals,” such as PFOS and PFOA, has contaminated groundwater in hundreds of communities near U.S. military bases at home and abroad. We hear about notorious water poisoning cases like Flint, Michigan, but very little is said about the public health crisis unfolding within the U.S. military’s widespread network of over 1,000 domestic bases and 800 foreign bases.

These toxic and potentially carcinogenic PFOS and PFOA chemicals, which are used in the military’s firefighting foam, have well-documented health impacts, such as thyroid disease, reproductive disorders, developmental delays, and infertility. Beyond this unfolding water crisis, as the world’s largest institutional consumer of oil, the U.S. military is the biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Militarism pollutes.

While we’re poisoning our waters, we’re also draining our wallets. Thirty million Americans don’t have health insurance. Half a million Americans sleep out on the streets every night. One in six children live in food-insecure homes. Forty-five million Americans are burdened with more than $1.6 trillion of student loan debt. And yet we sustain a war budget as large as the next seven largest military budgets combined if we use the US military’s own figures. If we use actual figures that include non-Pentagon budget military expenditures (e.g., nuclear weapons, which are paid for out of the Department of Energy budget), we learn that the actual US military budget is more than double what the Pentagon official budget is. Therefore, the US spends more on its military than all the other militaries on Earth combined.

Our country is struggling. We hear it repeatedly throughout the 2020 presidential race, whether from the democratic hopefuls or from Trump, many candidates harken back to talking points about the need to fix our broken and corrupt system, although admittedly their approaches to system change differ widely. Yes, something has run amok in a country with seemingly endless trillions for a military that’s never been audited, but scarce resources for everything else.

Where do we go from here? Number one, we can withdraw our support for reckless military spending. At World BEYOND War, we’re organizing divestment campaigns around the world to give people the tools to divest their retirement savings, their school’s university endowments, their city’s public pension funds, and more, from weapons and war. Divestment is our way of bucking the system by saying that we won’t fund endless wars with our private or public dollars anymore. We led the successful campaign to divest Charlottesville from weapons last year. Is your town next?

Posted in USAComments Off on Fouling Our Own Nest & Draining Our Wallets: It’s Time to Divest from Endless Wars

Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: ‘Israel’, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

by: RAMZY BAROUD

Photograph Source: Jay Phagan – CC BY 2.0

Massive natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel and Palestine are slated to make Tel Aviv a regional energy hub. Whether Israel will be able to translate positive indicators of the largely untapped gas reserves into actual economic and strategic wealth is yet to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that the Middle East is already in the throes of a major geostrategic war, which has the potential of becoming an actual military confrontation.

Unsurprisingly, Israel is at the heart of this growing conflict.

“Last week, we started to stream gas to Egypt. We turned Israel into an energy superpower,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged during a cabinet meeting on January 19.

Netanyahu’s self-congratulating remarks came on the heels of some exciting financial news for the embattled Prime Minister, as both Jordan and Egypt are now Tel Aviv’s clients, receiving billions of cubic meters of Israeli gas.

For Netanyahu, pumping Israeli gas to two neighboring Arab countries constitutes more than just economic and political advantages – it is a huge personal boost. The Israeli leader is trying to convince the public to vote for him in yet another general election in March, while pleading to Israel’s political elite to give him immunity so that he can stay out of prison for various corruption charges.

For years, Israel has been exploiting the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar fields – located nearly 125 km and 80 km west of Haifa respectively – to reconstruct regional alliances and to redefine its geopolitical centrality to Europe.

The Israeli strategy, however, has already created potentials for conflict in an already unstable region, expanding the power play to include Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, and Libya, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia.

On January 2, Netanyahu was in Athens signing a gas pipeline deal, alongside Greek Prime Minister, Kyriako Mitotakis, and Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades.

The EastMed pipeline is projected to travel from Israel to Cyprus, to Greece and, ultimately, to Italy, thus transporting eastern Mediterranean gas directly to the heart of Europe.

A few years ago, this scenario seemed unthinkable, as Israel has, in fact, imported much of its natural gas from neighboring Egypt.

Israel’s Tamar field partly rectified Israel’s reliance on imported gas when it began production in 2003. Shortly after, Israel struck gas again, this time with far greater potential, in the massive Leviathan field. On December 31, 2019, Leviathan began pumping gas for the first time.

Leviathan is located in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levantine Basin, a region that is rich with hydrocarbons.

“Leviathan is estimated to hold over 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to fill Israeli power-generation needs for the next 40 years, while still leaving an ample supply for export,” wrote Frank Musmar in the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

Egypt’s share of Israeli gas – 85 billion cubic meters (bcm), with an estimated cost of $19.5 billion – is acquired through the private Egyptian entity Dolphinus Holdings. The Jordanian deal was signed between the country’s national electricity company NEPCO, and American firm, Noble Energy, which owns a 45% stake in the Israeli project.

Jordanians have been protesting Israel’s gas deal en-masse, as they view economic cooperation between their country and Israel as an act of normalization, especially as Tel Aviv continues to occupy and oppress Palestinians.

The echoes of the popular protests have reached the Jordanian parliament which, on January 19, unanimously voted in favor of a law to ban gas imports from Israel. Israel is diversifying beyond exerting regional economic dominance to becoming a big player on the international geopolitical stage as well. The EastMed pipeline project, estimated at €6bn, is expected to cover 10% of Europe’s overall need for natural gas. This is where things get even more interesting.

Turkey believes that the deal, which involves its own regional rivals, Cyprus and Greece, is designed specifically to marginalize it economically by excluding it from the Mediterranean’s hydrocarbon boom.

Ankara is already a massive energy hub, being the host of TurkStream, which feeds Europe, with approximately 40% of its needs of natural gas coming from Russia. This fact has provided both Moscow and Ankara not only with more than economic advantages but geostrategic leverage as well. If the EastMed pipeline becomes a reality, Turkey and Russia will stand to lose the most.

In a series of successive, and surprising moves, Turkey retaliated by signing a maritime border deal with Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and by committing to send military support to help Tripoli in its fight against forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.

“Turkey will not permit any activity that is against its own interests in the region,” Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s Vice-President, told Anadolu News Agency, adding that “any plan that disregards Turkey has absolutely no chance of success.”

Although European countries were quick to condemn Ankara, the latter has succeeded in changing the rules of the game by staking a claim to vast areas that are also claimed by Greece and Cyprus as part of their so-called exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Not only will Turkey be drilling in Libya’s territorial waters for natural gas, but in disputed water near Cyprus as well. Ankara is accusing Cyprus of violating “the equal claim to discoveries”, an arrangement that followed the military conflict between both countries in 1974.

If the issue is not resolved, the EastMed pipeline project could potentially turn into a pipedream. What seemed like a lucrative deal, with immense geopolitical significance from an Israeli point of view, now appears to be another extension of the wider Middle Eastern conflict.

While the EU is eager to loosen Russia’s strategic control over the natural gas market, the EastMed pipeline increasingly appears unfeasible from every possible angle.

However, considering the massive deposits of natural gas that are ready to fuel struggling European markets, it is almost certain that the Mediterranean natural gas will eventually become a major source of political disputes, if not a war.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, TurkeyComments Off on Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: ‘Israel’, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

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