Archive | April 7th, 2020

Lessons From Africa: Military Intervention Fails to Counter Terrorism


Late last year, President Trump provoked a furor when he declared his intent to withdraw some 1,400 US troops from West Africa, where he claimed they had quelled the terrorist threat. He sparked a similar firestorm when he announced that the U.S. would (eventually) pull 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, where they were engaged in an 18-year conflict against other violent extremists.

Critics included congressional Democrats, Republican stalwarts, and members of the U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic establishments, as well mainstream media punditsinternational allies, and even some political progressives.

Establishment figures claimed that the battle against violent extremism was far from over and that U.S. military leadership was critical to victory. They pointed to ongoing insurgencies in the African countries of Mali and Nigeria in the Western Sahel and Somalia and Sudan in the Horn. Other progressives countered that U.S. policies have been ill-conceived and counterproductive — and that foreign military intervention has exacerbated the crises.

The establishment debate misses the point. Mainstream critics haggle over how many troops are needed, which nations should supply them, and where they should be deployed. The real question is whether present counterterrorism strategies are effective — and if not, what policies should be implemented instead.

Evidence from Africa makes it clear that military solutions do not work, and prescriptions imposed from above and outside often fail. Local initiatives that address underlying grievances have been more effective. But their impact will be limited without fundamental social, economic, and political change. To effectively counter violent extremism, the U.S. must withdraw support for the corrupt and repressive governments that foster discontent and assist local endeavors that address the people’s needs.

The disagreement between mainstream and progressive critics in the U.S. is rooted in fundamentally different visions of the role of the United States in the world community. Most establishment intellectuals embrace the notion of American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States is a unique force for good in the world, and to fulfill its mission, it must maintain its position at the helm of the global order.

Proponents of this view ordinarily promote military solutions, as well as economic development and (sometimes) democracy. Progressives, in contrast, reject this sanguine characterization of U.S. actionsand denounce the policies that have led to endless war. To resolve the current crisis, the United States and its partners must fundamentally shift their perspective and alter their approach. Continuing on the present path will only result in greater mayhem.

Current U.S. Africa policy, developed during the Cold War, was conceived by leaders and proponents of the U.S. military-industrial complex. Marked by militarism and misunderstanding, it has failed to identify the factors that undermine human security and offered wrong-headed solutions that often exacerbate the problem. The post-9/11 war on terror has led to particularly grievous results.

Military Solutions Don’t Work

Contrary to common misconceptions, religion and ethnicity are not the root causes of African conflicts.

Rather, the sources are deep structural inequalities — poverty, underdevelopment, and political repression — and the devastating impact of climate change. Governmental neglect and the drying up of Lake Chad ignited the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria; the expanding desert in western Sudan has pitted herders against farmers in the struggle for water and usable land; and the destruction of the fishing industry by foreign trawlers led to piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Where do we start? First, we need to determine what does not work.

Counterterrorism operations, whether conducted by the U.S. or its allies, have been catastrophic. Intervention in the Sahel exemplifies the problem. In Mali and Nigeria, government actions in insurgent areas, and externally directed drone and missile strikes, have killed countless unarmed civilians. Such actions have increased local support for insurgent forces. Military successes have generally been short-lived, as violent extremists have regrouped and shifted their focus to unprotected civilians.

Local governments backed by the United States and its allies rarely address the structural problems that triggered the conflicts. As a result, local populations, neglected by their governments, have turned to extremist groups for income, basic services, and protection. Peace agreements, imposed from above and outside, fail to give voice to affected populations and jihadi organizations have been denied a seat at the table, even though they are critical parties to the conflicts. Not surprisingly, most of the accords have collapsed.

Foreign intervention in the Horn of Africa has had similar results. In Somalia, the intensification of US airstrikes has stimulated increased extremist activity and a corresponding refocus on civilian targets. Abuses by unaccountable regimes and foreign troops have generated a popular backlash, and externally brokered peace accords that excluded local voices have resulted in a succession of failed governments.

What have we learned? There will be no peace if underlying grievances are not addressed, domestic and foreign militaries continue to victimize local populations, and dysfunctional states fail to provide basic services.

Shifting the Focus

If the question is not how many troops and where should they be, what should we ask?

First, we must question our current framing of U.S. national security interests. Like Trump’s America firsters, establishment liberals tend to view U.S. national security primarily in military terms that focuses on the defense of national borders against external military threats.

Instead, we need to embrace a more expansive concept of “human security” that focuses on people rather than territory and includes health, education, employment, environment, and respect for human rights and civil liberties as factors critical to human well-being. The safeguarding of both U.S. and global security requires a multidimensional approach that addresses the root causes of problems that threaten the world today.

Second, we need to acknowledge that we do not have the answers and seek out those who do. We will learn that grassroots endeavors — organized by African-led agricultural cooperatives, trade unions, and women’s and youth groups — are already addressing the grievances that spring from poverty and inequality and the conflicts that result. They have lived the experience and have developed the best solutions. They must guide our policy choices.

Third, the U.S. and its allies should support local peace initiatives that include all affected parties. Key actors should not be sidelined at their discretion.

Finally, we should withdraw our support for corrupt, repressive regimes and instead advance US and multilateral initiatives that promote democracy, human rights, and economic, environmental, and climate justice. The only path to greater U.S. security is greater human security worldwide. Although fundamental political, economic, and social transformations will take decades, they are the only solution to crises in Africa and the global south.

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No Pandemic-Related Pause? VA Privatization Leaves Veterans Waist Deep in Another Big Muddy


Photograph Source: Brianmcmillen – CC BY-SA 4.0

“Every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the Big Fool says to push on.”

– Pete Seeger, 1967

Half a century ago, 60,000 Americans and more than three million Vietnamese lost their lives in the foreign policy quagmire known as the Vietnam War.

Nothing captured the futility of U.S. intervention better than the memorable refrain of Pete Seeger’s “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” This metaphoric song never mentions Vietnam, because the lyrics tell the story a World War II training mission involving soldiers, loaded down with equipment, who are ordered to ford a muddy river in Louisiana.

The captain leading his men deeper into the treacherous current brushes off warnings from his sergeant, calling him a “Nervous Nelly.” As the dark water rises around them, “the big fool” in charge insists that everyone “push on” because “we’ll soon be on dry ground.”

Finally, the captain goes under himself and drowns. His sergeant orders the trainees to abandon the crossing, with no further casualties. (In the real-life Parris Island incident that inspired Seeger’s song, six Marines died under similar circumstances and the platoon leader responsible was later court-martialed.)

Waist Deep was not just a big hit among civilian opponents of the Vietnam War. It also resonated among GI’s because so many had been put in personal danger by unpopular officers acting with much certitude but little concern for their well-being.

The real “big fool” in Seeger’s musical parable was, of course, President Lyndon Johnson, then leading the U.S. ever deeper into the “big muddy” of Vietnam. Johnson’s repeated escalations of the war greatly increased its total loss of life, until he himself was forced to reverse course and abandon a planned re-election bid in 1968.

There’s another “big fool” in the White House now, actively seeking re-election. One of his proudest achievements is outsourcing medical care for veterans, which has steered many toward private hospitals now overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

Another Big Muddy

How did veterans of Vietnam and other wars end up in the “big muddy” of VA privatization?  Two years ago, President Trump persuaded a bi-partisan coalition in Congress to pass the VA MISSION Act of 2018. It authorized a costly expansion of outsourcing by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provides healthcares for nine million former military personnel.

Under the guise of giving VA patients more “choice” and speeding up their doctor appointments and hospital treatment, the Trump Administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on private sector providers, while refusing to fill an estimated 44,000 to 50,000 vacancies among VA care-givers.

Before he was fired for not implementing privatization fast enough, Trump’s first Veterans Affairs Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, boasted that the percentage of VA patients who received some outside care increased from 19 to 36 percent on his watch.

Shulkin did try to fend off proposals by Kansas Republican Jerry Moran who wanted every veteran “to visit a VA facility or a facility in the private sector whenever he or she wanted.” Shulkin warned Trump that Senator Moran’s approach “would put the VA hospital system at risk of harm by diluting its delivery capabilities and cost the U.S. Treasury billions more each year.”

Quicker Care Elsewhere?

After Shulkin was fired by tweet in 2018, Trump replaced him with a former Republican staffer from Capitol Hill. Unlike Shulkin and his predecessors, Robert Wilkie had no experience running any big private or public sector organization, much less the federal government’s second largest agency.

Until he appeared to waiver recently, Wilkie’s main virtue was his reliable promotion of further privatization.  With Shulkin gone and the MISSION Act passed, Wilkie developed new rules for outside referrals that lacked proper clinical guidelines. As Shulkin has warned, these “access standards” could “lead to the rapid dismantling of the current VA system.”

As the current pandemic spread, however, even a cabinet secretary with no healthcare background was bound to notice that lines are getting longer and hospital wards more crowded and hazardous in the private sector. Getting a quick appointment with your primary care provider, dentist, or eye doctor is not easy for anyone at the moment, much less  new patients from the VA.

In addition, veterans are generally older and already less healthy than the patient population of most private healthcare systems. In order to be eligible for VA care, they must be low-income or have some service-related condition. Many have ailments that make them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 in the community or being hospitalized with a severe case of it.

So, not surprisingly, Wilkie informed the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees that the VA was proposing “a temporary strategic pause in the MISSION Act access standards for 90 days, or until the soonest possible time that routine care resumes.”

A Temporary Pause?

The response from privatization hawks, in and around the Trump Administration, was reminiscent of hostile right-wing reactions to Lyndon Johnson’s “strategic pauses” in the bombing of North Vietnam in the late 1960s (for publicity or negotiating purposes).

Influential Republicans weighed in with predictable outrage. “I have serious concerns with the V.A. putting a temporary pause on community care,” said Jerry Moran (R-KS), now chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in a New York Times.interview. “At a moment like this, vets deserve MORE health care options—not less,” tweeted Pete Hegseth, a Trump confidante, Fox News commentator, and former director of the Koch-funded Concerned Veterans of America (CVA)

Nate Anderson, his successor at CVA, urged the V.A. “not to proceed with any policy proposal that would limit the ability of veterans to access care in the community.” And Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), the ranking Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, demanded to know “how and why V.A made this decision.”

Eager to avoid Shulkin’s fate, Secretary Wilkie had an underling quickly clarify in the Times that there would be no real “pause,” just closer scrutiny of requested referrals for non-emergency care “on a case-by-case basis for immediate clinical need and with regard to the safety of the veteran.” The White House offered additional assurance that Donald Trump was “not stopping or pausing” MISSION Act implementation but just “ensuring that the best medical interests of America’s veterans are met.”

One of those veterans is Bay Area VA patient Paul Cox, who  doubts that Trump has his personal safety or best interests in mind. “Only conservative ideologues who care more about their pet privatization project than the well-being of veterans would continue to push the VA in the wrong direction in such dire times,” says Cox, who served in Vietnam and now assists the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute.

As Denny Riley, a 75-year old Air Force veteran points out: “If you defund something so that it doesn’t work adequately for the people, then you can point at it and say, ‘See, it doesn’t work,’ and send these people to private healthcare, and that’s a total boondoggle.”

As part of its coronavirus stimulus package, Congress just authorized a long overdue infusion of $20 billion for VA hospital expansion, equipment purchases, and other expenditures—leading Riley to believe that, “in this particular situation, the VA will outshine private healthcare.”

That won’t be the preferred outcome of true believers in the MISSION Act, who remain committed to marching as many veterans as possible into the “big muddy” of private healthcare. Count on them to out-source as much VA care as they can, under any circumstances, for as long as possible, even in the face of now obvious risks.

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Oil industry Exploits Pandemic as Excuse to Dodge Federal Regulations, Fees


Photograph Source: Phil Dolby – CC BY 2.0

In an act of appalling hubris, the oil and gas industry is asking the federal government to loosen enforcement of federal regulations on public lands in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, one of the petroleum industry’s primary lobbying groups, was quoted in EnergyWire as seeking one-year extensions for two-year drilling permits and 10-year federal mineral leases, a change that would allow them to hold onto unused leases they are stockpiling. Sgamma also referenced changes to compliance requirements and “royalty and fee waivers” for the world’s wealthiest industry. Robert McEntyre of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is quoted in the same story as seeking “commonsense flexibilities” when it comes to complying with federal regulations.

Ironically, the oil industry’s call for a lax approach to regulatory oversight came the day after a federal court struck down the Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) precisely because the federal government failed to live up to its obligation to enforce federal regulations and undertake a detailed Environmental Impact Statement before approving the project. The DAPL project sparked a worldwide controversy when a months-long encampment of water protectors led by the Lakota people of the Standing Rock reservation attempted to block pipeline construction beneath the vulnerable waters of Lake Oahe. These same environmental and social justice problems are echoed in current controversies over pipelines like the Keystone XLEnbridge Line 5, and the Coastal GasLink planned across Wet’suwet’en sovereign lands north of the Canadian border.

But pipelines are hardly the only aspect of the oil and gas industry where lax regulation is causing major problems. Declines of sage grouse throughout the American West are partly attributable to habitat destruction and fragmentation from wellfield construction. Drilling threatens to sever key migration routes like the ancient Path of the Pronghorn. Natural gas drilling and production in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming has replaced the previously pristine air quality of Pinedale, Wyoming with smog that rivals Los Angeles. This is an industry that clearly needs a lot more adult supervision from federal agencies – not less – than it is getting now.

Global oil prices have fallen due to a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, but natural gas prices are low as result from a decade of over-aggressive drilling and production in the United States which has glutted the market. The oil industry made this bed for themselves, and now they should have to lie in it.  Natural gas is bought and sold on a continental market; it is not a global commodity easily traded across oceans, as are crude oil and refined petroleum. Thus, when oil corporations over-produce, they run out of places to store it, and natural gas prices collapse. This dynamic has wracked western states with boom and bust economic disruptions (and the waves of crime and environmental destruction that accompany the booms) for decades.

Instead of taxpayers propping up fossil fuel industry, we should be helping it die with dignity, and instead fund programs to retrain and rehire the industry’s workers into new positions that offer comparable pay but make the world a better place. America has a massive backlog in infrastructure maintenance, with potholed highways and failing bridges. Oil industry workers could be gainfully employed rebuilding America’s infrastructure, or in a government-sponsored program to install solar panels for homeowners, instead of propping up an industry that accelerates the building climate catastrophe and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disaster relief for sea level rise and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate disruption.

Congress should ignore the fossil fuel industry’s pleas for price breaks – and “flexibility” in enforcing regulations – on publicly-owned lands and mineral deposits, which federal government shouldn’t be leasing in the first place. Instead, lawmakers should focus economic stimulus dollars on distributed renewable projects like rooftop solar, which produce clean energy in urbanized settings that don’t require more sacrifice of lands and wildlife.

The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of workers to cancel travel plans, stay home, and self-isolate to minimize their exposure to the virus and reduce transmission to others as a means to “flatten the curve” of new cases. The resulting reduction in fossil fuel combustion has depressed commodity prices, true enough, but also has given the planet a much-needed reprieve, dispelling smog and clearing polluted waters. The pandemic gives the world a glimpse of how much cleaner and greener the world will be when we end our addiction to fossil fuels. That’s a future worth the investment.

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Guatemalan Water Protectors Persist, Despite Mining Company Threats


Photograph Source: Esmée Winnubst – CC BY 2.0

The hard work of protecting water and land from the long-term harms associated with gold and silver mining takes place daily on the frontlines of tenacious struggles throughout Latin America and around the world.

Indigenous people and affected communities face many reprisals for their resistance, including a mounting number of arbitration suits against their governments from mining companies suing over projects that people have managed to halt through direct action and in the courts.

This month, in Guatemala, the Peaceful Resistance “La Puya” celebrates eight years of struggle against a gold mining project that threatens to pollute or dry up already scarce water supplies in an area just north of Guatemala City.

Day after day, since March 2012, community members have rotated in shifts to keep 24-hour watch over the access gate to the “El Tambor” gold mining project. Catholic masses, community meetings and cultural activities have punctuated this nearly decade-long vigil along a stretch of dusty road adorned with banners declaring resistance to mining.

Local residents living in the “dry corridor,” as this area is known, are concerned that gold mining would aggravate water shortages and contaminate water supplies with arsenic and heavy metals, putting people, plants, and animals at risk.

Speaking to a crowd of all ages that gathered to celebrate La Puya´s anniversary on March 8, Doña Feliza Muralles remarked that Christmas, New Years, Holy Week, Mother´s Day, and birthdays have all been celebrated at their peaceful encampment.

“We have done this purely of our own will,” she said. “We have donated this time in defense of our territory and of future generations… and we´ll continue to struggle until the end.”

For their peaceful resistance, La Puya has faced serious reprisals. Twenty community members have faced unjust legal accusations and there was a past attempt on the life of a member of the resistance. Between 2012 and 2014, the community turned out en masse — with women leading the way — to face down police deployed to evict the resistance and enable the company access to the site. As a result, for a brief time from 2014 to 2016, the company managed to operate the mine.

In 2016, the peaceful resistance turned to the courts. They achieved the mine´s suspension for lack of prior consultation with Indigenous people. Shortly later, an investigation was opened against the president of KCA, Daniel Kappes, and the general manager of the mine in Guatemala for illegal exploitation of natural resources, when the company failed to respect the suspension order and continued operating. The Guatemalan constitutional court also found that the mining company failed to obtain a municipal construction license for the project.

But La Puya’s fight is not over.

While lacking any social or legal grounds on which to operate its mine in Guatemala, KCA has slapped Guatemala with a US$350 million international arbitration claim at the World Bank´s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) over alleged violations of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). This month, the arbitration panel admitted the case for consideration on its merits.

In recognition of the communities’ ongoing resistance, earlier this month, over 100 organizations from Guatemala and throughout the Americas sent a letter to La Puya in celebration of their persistent struggle and in solidarity with them in their upcoming battles.

Meanwhile, other mining companies have continued to threaten governments with suits over unwanted projects.

This is a trend the Institute for Policy Studies has previously reported on. The Extraction Casino study looked at 38 cases that mining companies have brought with increasing frequency against Latin American governments since 1998. Over half of these cases concern government measures regarding the implementation or modification of environmental and mining regulations. One third hinge on the issue of Indigenous rights and community consent.

In recent months, three more such cases have been threatened.

In late February, a Chinese consortium of Junefield Mineral Resources Limited and Hunan Gold Group threatened to bring a suit against Ecuador for $480 million over the suspension of the Rio Blanco mining project. Local communities achieved the suspension of this underground gold and silver mine in the highlands of south-central Ecuador in 2018 for lack of prior consultation.

This is a project that should have stopped much earlier. According to a constitutional-level decree issued by Ecuador´s National Constituent Assembly in 2008, all mining concessions were ordered extinguished that overlap with protected areas, impact on water supplies or lacked prior consultation with affected communities. This includes the mining concessions associated with the Rio Blanco project, which are located within a natural protected area and were not consulted with local communities, according to an analysis carried out by the Environment Defenders Law Center and MiningWatch Canada.

This company´s threat of arbitration should not be permitted either.

Ecuador cancelled 16 bilateral investment agreements in 2017, including one signed with China in 1994. Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution in Article 422 declares that treaties or international instruments that permit international arbitration are unconstitutional for undermining the nation´s sovereignty.

Cecilia Olivet, Coordinator of the Trade and Investment project at the Transnational Institute, participated in a 2013-2015 audit of bilateral investment treaties in Ecuador. She points out that although the 1994 bilateral investment agreement between Ecuador and China allows Chinese companies that invested prior to its cancellation to continue making use of the treaty for another 10 years, the grounds for bringing arbitration within the treaty are highly restrictive. According to this treaty, arbitration disputes should be limited only to disputes over the value of expropriation of a given project.

This is not the case with the Rio Blanco mine.

But such technicalities are hard to rely on when disregard for the rules is a feature of the international arbitration system. George Kahale III, the chairperson of a Washington-based law firm who defends governments in such suits, has described the system as the “Wild Wild West of International Law”. According to Kahale III, when it comes to international arbitration “there are really no hard and fast laws” and “misrepresentations of fact and gross mis-citations of authorities are rampant and, when discovered, usually go unpunished.”

It is further worrisome in the case of Rio Blanco, despite local opposition and all the irregularities, that an Ecuadorian official responded to the Chinese firm´s threat of arbitration expressing willingness to enter into a dialogue with the company to resolve its concerns, stating that he hoped the mine would soon resume operations. Meanwhile, affected communities remain on high alert to defend their territory from mining activities.

Another suit was threatened in December when Canadian mining company Lupaka Resources gave notice of its intent to sue Peru over its Invicta gold project. The community of Parán, several hours north of Lima, has been blockading this project given their concerns over potential contamination of their water sources and impacts on their livelihoods as successful peach farmers. Earlier talks broke down between the farmers and the company when the community learned that the environmental impact assessment for the project had been approved without their prior knowledge.

Then, this month, another Canadian mining company, Gabriel Resources, announced its second threat of arbitration against Romania. Gabriel Resources already has a multi-billion dollar case underway against this country for not having permitted an open-pit gold mine that would destroy the community of Rosia Montana, which has a 2,000-year-old cultural heritage. Now, the company is threatening to sue over efforts to have this area declared a UNESCO world heritage site, hoping to pressure Romania to withdraw its application to UNESCO while claiming that such a designation is incompatible with its mining project.

When there is so much at risk for the community there is only one thing of concern in such arbitration, as Adrian Petri from Rosia Montana recently stated during a protest over Gabriel Resources´ suit: “To the arbitrators, Rosia Montana is about money, money, and again money.”

The international arbitration system does not take into consideration the long-term impacts that these mining projects could have on the water, lands, livelihoods, and values that these communities are defending. Meanwhile, arbitration processes can bring terrible pressure to bear from outside on these local struggles, serving as yet another vehicle with which mining companies can bully their way around in defiance of people´s self-determination and the sovereignty of states.

But just as water protectors press on against tough odds to defend land and life from the onslaught of mining projects, so must we continue to build solidarity with them and strengthen efforts to bring an end to investor-state dispute arbitration and the agreements that hold it in place.

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Online safety advice issued in response to 400% increase in coronavirus scams

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Coronavirus scams alert

Updated figures show there have been 105 reports to Action Fraud since 1 February 2020, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000. 

The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. Other frauds being reported include ticket fraudromance fraudcharity fraud and lender loan fraud. See more here:

Get Safe Online has issued some tips on how to help avoid being scammed:

  • Be wary of approaches from supposed travel agents, tour operators, airlines, cruise companies, insurance companies or compensation fi rms promising to arrange travel, accommodation or event entry refunds: they may well be fraudulent. If in doubt, call the company you have been dealing with, on the phone number you know to be correct. These approaches can take the form of emails, texts, social media posts, direct messages, online advertisements and phone calls.
  • Be wary of ads for products such as facemasks, hand sanitiser, vaccines, cures and hard-to-get goods, as they could be for non-existent products. Never pay by bank transfer, and where possible pay by credit card as doing so provides additional protection.
  • As always, don’t click on unknown links in emails, texts or posts, or email attachments. They could link to websites that capture your passwords and other confidential details or cause a malware infection, both of which can result in financial or identity fraud. They could also link to adult, hate, extremist or other content.

Read Get Safe Online safety advice about avoiding online coronavirus-related scams and working safely from home during the outbreak here:

To report crimes and scams please follow the following guidance:

  • Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report incidents of fraud online and offline at
  • Call 101 to report non-emergency incidents to your local police.
  • Call 999 if you’re reporting a crime that’s in progress or someone is in immediate danger.
  • Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 to report crime completely anonymously.

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The Nazi occupation forces arrest a young man and a boy from Jerusalem

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr


Nazi occupied Jerusalem: At dawn Sunday, the occupation forces arrested Palestinians from Silwan, occupied Jerusalem.

The Quds Newsletter reported that, at dawn today, members of the Nazi police stormed several neighborhoods in Silwan, and started to search and search a number of Palestinian homes.

She added that the occupation forces arrested the boy Saed Al-A’our (17 years old) and the young Muhammad Zaloom, after they raided and searched their homes and destroyed their contents.

It is noteworthy that the arrests of young men in the city of Jerusalem by the Nazi occupation police and intelligence are still continuing, especially in Silwan, Al-Issawiya, and the Old City.



This morning, the Nazi occupation forces arrested Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith after they raided and searched his house in the Nazi occupied capital.

The Quds Newsletter reported that this morning, occupation forces stormed the home of the Jerusalem governor in Silwan, and after searching him, Ghaith was arrested and transferred to investigations.

It is noteworthy that Ghaith is a freed prisoner, and he was subjected to a series of procedures and policies of abuse in conjunction with his assumption of the position of governor, through summonses to investigate, arrests, or deportation from the West Bank and Al-Aqsa Mosque and not to communicate with some people.

The Nazi occupation forces also stormed the house of the secretary of the Fatah movement, Shadi Mutour, in the town of Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, and did not find him, so his family delivered a summons to investigate him.

And the national forces in Jerusalem condemned the arrest of the official figures, after the arrest and assault of the Minister of Jerusalem Fadi Hudmi the day before, and the arrest of Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith today, and summoning the Secretary of the Territory of the “Fatah” Shadi developer under false pretexts.

In a statement, she said that the aim of the occupation’s arrests is to obstruct national action in Jerusalem towards confronting the Corona virus, which does not distinguish between one race and another, so everyone is in danger.

And it called on the occupation authorities to refrain from targeting the youth and national figures in Jerusalem, stressing that the occupation’s practices will not deter them from fulfilling their role and responsibilities to protect our people and preserve their health and lives in light of the neglect of Nazi health institutions, to provide inspection services to the people of Jerusalem.

The Nazi occupation forces arrested the Minister of Jerusalem Fadi Hudmi from his home in Jerusalem yesterday, where he took him to the “Al-Maskoubia” center of the occupation police west of Jerusalem, and then released him after hours of investigation.

شبكة قدس الإخبارية@QudsNN

قوات الاحتلال تعتقل محافظ #القدس المحتلة عدنان غيث من منزله في بلدة سلوان جنوب المسجد الأقصى، قبل قليل.#فلسطين٤٨:٣٧ ص – ٥ أبريل ٢٠٢٠المعلومات والخصوصية لإعلانات تويترمشاهدة تغريدات شبكة قدس الإخبارية الأخرى

10 prisoners at Raymond detention center are going on strike … for these reasons


Occupied Palestine – Jerusalem News : Ten prisoners in “Raymond” prison, today, Sunday, launched an open-ended hunger strike, in protest at the conditions in the prison sections and the prisoners live in these days.

The Radio of the Prisoners Radio quoted the director of the Prisoners Club, Abdel-Al Al-Anani, as saying that 10 of the “Raymond” prisoners had started a hunger strike, refusing to continue isolating the two prisoners “Omar Kharwat and Hatem Al-Qawasmeh.”

The strike step comes as a rejection of the prison administration procedures that it imposed on the prisoners recently, and its continuation. The Occupation Prison Administration refused to release the prisoners whose sentences had expired or were about to end.

The Ofer Nazi Camp administration also transferred the nine prisoners who had been quarantined, who had been in contact with the editor, who was infected with the Corona virus, Noureddine Sarsour, without taking samples from them. 

Prisoners in the Nazi occupation prisons face dramatic circumstances that multiply in light of fears of the spread of Corona virus infection.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Health, Human RightsComments Off on The Nazi occupation forces arrest a young man and a boy from Jerusalem

How Wall St. & Trump created the ventilator crisis

By Joyce Chediac

Production line of ventilators in Shenyang, China. Unable to find ventilators in the U.S. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo purchased 15,000 from China. Photo: Xinhua.

The  $2 trillion relief bill of spending and tax breaks to bolster the hobbled U.S. economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic was signed into law on March 27. While offering some relief to workers, it does little to directly address broken supply chains for vital items like ventilators. It does not require manufacturers to coordinate production of equipment and therapeutics in short supply, or ensure that masks and ventilators are distributed to where they’re most needed.

It does, however, offer bonanzas to corporations. The federal government is open for coronavirus business, and the race to get  some of the $2 trillion has become a frenzy.  Lobbyists are  descending on Washington seeking lucrative contracts. Some are advocating for companies producing a mist spray for killing the virus on airplanes, others for recyclable hospital curtains, still others for a host of disinfectants competing against each other. Companies making test kits and masks are also in competition.

Ventilators are the most the most important piece of equipment for keeping COVID-19 patients in crisis alive. Yet there is an acute shortage. New York State, overwhelmed with with 60,000  virus cases and 1,000 deaths, has made an urgent plea to the White house for 30,000 ventilators. In New Orleans, where there has been a surge of COVID-19 cases, Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that the city could run out of ventilators in days.

Why weren’t ventilators and personal protective equipment prioritized in the $2 trillion bill? Why weren’t they produced and stocked two months ago when the alarm was sounded that the virus would affect the United States?  Why is there no federal plan to fight the virus?

The Trump administration has had the authority to invoke the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law which  allow him to harness U.S. factories, and to organize, centralize and prioritize production of what  is needed in time of crisis. Trump could have re-fitted factories for producing ventilators and their parts, even compelling competing companies to work together for rapid and streamlined production.

Biggest businesses  said ‘no’ to Defense Production Act

He hasn’t done this because Wall Street is against it. For weeks the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has strongly lobbied the government against using the Defense Production Act because invoking and implementing it would cut into their profit margins. The  Chamber of Commerce represents the interest of the largest U.S. corporations, the ones whose very existence defines the world “capitalism.”

The Trump Administration is listening to Wall Street, not the needs of the people. Following the instructions of the Chamber of Commerce, the  U.S. government has opted for “corporate volunteering.” The argument is that, through the magic of the marketplace, corporations will automatically, on a voluntary basis, produce what is needed for the COVID-19 crisis, and make money too.

But corporations are making money not by mass producing what is needed, but by jacking up the prices of  the scarce supplies that already exist, making the crisis much worse. The Trump administration has the authority to stop this price-gouging, but it has not.

The current health crisis has exposed the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and the state that serves it. The crisis has shown that a system obsessed with profits is neither willing nor able to meet the needs of the people no matter what the cost in human lives.

New York a test case for rest of country

The need for PPE and especially for ventilators is there for all to see. With 40 percent of the country’s virus cases, on March 24 New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo made an impassioned and urgent plea to the federal government for as many ventilators as can be found, calling the need “critical and desperate.”

New York State, has 7,000 ventilators, Cuomo said, but needs 30,000. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has said that 15,000 are needed for NYC alone, which has the most cases in the country. The state had received only 400 ventilators from the federal government.

The shortage of life saving equipment is so acute that on March 26,  New York approved an experimental technique of putting two persons on one ventilator because “we have no alternative,” said  Cuomo. Veterinary hospitals and schools are donating their ventilators for human use.

U.S. cities short 135,000 ventilators

Other cities see in New York what could happen to them down the road. A March 24 survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors  found that 192 cities didn’t have needed supplies to fight the virus. The cities need 135,000 ventilators, 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million other items of personal protection equipment, 7.9 million test kits and more. Counted were  PPE items needed just for health care personnel. Many thousands more workers need masks and other equipment because they come in direct contact with the public.

Competition between states raises prices for PPE

There is no central coordination for getting supplies. The states have been advised by the federal government to buy ventilators and PPE on the open market. This has forced states to compete against each other for what exists. Corporations  have responded to the demand by jacking up prices.

Price gouging is a tremendous problem, and it’s only getting worse,” Cuomo said. The cost of a single ventilator has risen from $25,000 to $40,000. Face masks for front-line staff, normally about 58 cents each, have been quoted by sellers at $7.50, according to Cuomo’s office. Thermometers are going for twice their usual price, latex gloves triple. Portable X-ray machines that help diagnose the virus cost as much as 20 times what they were selling for before the emergency.

Why cooperative production needed

Centralization and prioritization of production is needed to save lives. Laws are needed to punish those who price gouge. This could be done under the Defense Production Act. After waffling, Trump finally invoked the DPA on March 27, but only regarding one company, GM, which had already agreed to produce ventilators. This is merely giving lip service.

With cities needing at least 135,000 ventilators right away, GM said it could only ship by April or May, and then only 5,000 to 7,500 units. These ventilators would not reach the cities in time for this first, devastating wave of the virus.

If seriously invoked  two months ago, the Defense Production Act could have  re-tooled and re-directed  thousands of plants, and found domestic substitutes for components made overseas.This would have been most helpful for complex goods such as ventilators, which are assembled from hundreds of individual parts.

But the Trump administration sat on its hands.

Workers take initiative: Find supplies; demand refitting to make ventilators

With the federal government so derelict in its duties, working people and their unions have have filled the gap. Presidents of the  Service Employees International Union,  the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,  the American Federation of Teachers and the  National Education Association wrote a letter to Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue on March 29:

“We condemn the Chamber’s efforts to lobby President Trump against using the Defense Production Act to direct emergency production of life-saving PPE and medical equipment such as ventilators….The idea that the Chamber would put bottom-line profits and adherence to some mistaken principle of capitalism ahead of the safety of American workers and the public at large is difficult to fathom.”

Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, concerned with their members’ safety, has  located 39 million N95 masks and is making them available to state and local governments and health care systems. The union found a supplier that can produce 20 million protective masks per week and another that can supply millions of protective face shields.

Workers at General Electric’s Lynn, Massachusetts factory walked off the job on March 30 to demand that the company stop making jet engines at the plant and make ventilators instead. They were backed by their union, the Communication Workers of America.

Socialist planning needed

Unable to get ventilators in the U.S., New York State has purchased 15,000 ventilators in China. Why does China have ventilators when the U.S. doesn’t?

China has ventilators because, while there are  capitalist businesses there, China has the centralized government of a socialized country. This government prioritized meeting human needs and saving human lives. In marked contrast to the U.S foot-dragging, when the seriousness of the virus became evident, the Chinese government immediately centralized the retooling of more than 1,000 factories to produce needed supplies. Applying science and the principles of public health, China has contained COVID-19. Now it is producing for export many thousands of ventilators, masks, gowns, test kits and other PPE , often given these as gifts to countries hardest hit.

Cuba, a socialist country whose government puts people’s needs first, instituted science-based practices to protect its population. It has very few COVID-19 cases, and is sending anti-viral medications and doctors around the world to assist other countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the capitalist system to be so bankrupt that, for the sake of humanity, it must be put out if its misery.  Capitalism is the virus and socialism is the cure.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on How Wall St. & Trump created the ventilator crisis

Coronavirus Takes Spirit Out of Jerusalem Holy Sites, but Residents Cling to Faith

Chrisitian, Muslim and Jewish sites at the Old City adapt to new restrictions on congregation and prayer as coronavirus tours the Holy Land

By: Nir Hasson  

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, March 15, 2020.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, March 15, 2020. Emil Salman

At the Western Wall plaza, tape was laid out to separate groups of worshippers. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Stone of the Anointing was sanitized and incense was spread. The gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were closed to worshipers, who prayed instead in the outdoor courts. The prohibitions imposed in an attempt to limit the coronavirus outbreak have been heard quite well in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Yisrael Lubin, a Hasid from Jerusalem, passed the afternoon hours at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza, trying  to convince men to put on tefillin. “They are scaring people,” he said. “I believe that everything comes from the Holy One, Blessed be He. We need to make an effort not to be deterred – although if the time has come for someone then it has come, if not from bacteria then from an accident. It’s easier for the believers. These days, if you don’t feel God you go crazy.”skip – Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

Lubin’s mission takes on a new meaning in the time of coronavirus: Worshipers fear using the leather straps of the phylacteries because they have passed through many hands. “Here you are under the protection of the Holy One, Blessed Be he – he loves you,” said Lubin in an attempt to calm people down. “It is not a coincidence that no one has died yet here. In other places they are falling like flies.”

In the prayer space right in front of the Western Wall, dozens of worshipers moved around – the great majority of them ultra-Orthodox. “What should I do, lie under the bed?” explained one of them, Moish Ben Gabriel. “It won’t help to be afraid.” The nonreligious visitors and tourists who normally fill the site were now hardly seen there.

On the way from the Western Wall to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there is another Old City institution hurt by the virus breakout: The Abu Shukri restaurant. COVID-19 patients 92 and 98 had eaten there last week and the restaurant owners chose to close the place until the storm passes. Most of the adjacent businesses were still open but empty.

The crowded streets and prospering businesses of the Old City stood empty. The movement of police and Border Police officers could be felt – but the police were equipped with masks on their faces.

The merchants in the Old City have gotten used to exceptional events that disrupt their daily routine and prevent them from making a living. The intifadas, protests, terror attacks, visits by presidents and kings, days of rage and plain days of fear – they have been coming and going for decades. The present threat, however, is completely foreign to Jerusalem.

“It’s like a bomb that fell suddenly,” said Zaki Himo, a café owner at Damascus Gate. “You don’t know when it will end. There are no tourists and there is fear. Since the morning, I didn’t even make 80 shekels ($22). It’s not enough for a family of five people.”

“We received an order from the police to close,” said Abu Musa, the owner of a small tea shop at the entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque. “If this lasts two months, we will hang on. But if not, we will have to look for other work,” he said.

The Western Wall, Jerusalem, March 15, 2020.
The Western Wall, Jerusalem, March 15, 2020. Ohad Zwigenberg

A clean angle for a selfie 

The Islamic Waqf closed the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques and called for worshipers to pray in the outdoor plaza instead. Waqf ushers passed between them and asked to keep a safe distance from one another.

In the morning, the police closed some of the gates to the complex for a short time and Jewish visitors were allowed to enter in groups of no more than 10 people. According to the instructions of the Health Ministry, the Chief Rabbinate has closed down all the Jewish ritual baths for men, which makes it harder for religious Jews to visit the Temple Mount, because they traditionally must immerse themselves before entering.

The plaza in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is packed full with groups of tourists every day, was almost completely empty too. French news agency photographer Gali Tibbon convinced the monks to clean the Stone of the Anointing with alcohol.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, Jerusalem, March 16, 2020.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, Jerusalem, March 16, 2020. Mahmoud Illean/AP

Inside the church, the monks placed burning incense everywhere, hoping that the smell would drive away the virus. The few tourists who were there were asked to enter in small groups. People were allowed to enter the Aedicula, the small chapel that encloses the tomb of Jesus, in pairs – compared to regular times when thousands of pilgrims wait to enter the packed chamber. A tourist from Russia took her mask off her face so she could kiss the stone at the entrance.

The Holy Fire ceremony, whose climax is the descent of fire from the heavens into the hands of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch inside the Aedicula, is to take place on Holy Saturday, three weeks from now. This is the most important event of the year in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and thousands participate. It is clear to everyone that the ceremony will take place this year without an audience.

The few tourists who came nonetheless, enjoyed selfies without interference. On Friday, a large group of pilgrims from Russia visited the church. They entered Israel through the Taba land crossing from the Sinai Peninsula for a one-day only visit to Jerusalem.

It may have been the last large group to visit the Holy Land in the near future.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Health, Human RightsComments Off on Coronavirus Takes Spirit Out of Jerusalem Holy Sites, but Residents Cling to Faith

The UK and Covid-19 Crisis


Photograph Source: Sanshiro KUBOTA – CC BY 2.0

The UK has been preoccupied with its roiling Brexit psychodrama since 2016.

Brexit has to be seen in the larger context of the UK’s incomplete recovery from the 2008 financial crisis—a context which not only complicated the Brexit imbroglio, but also served as a wider arena for the exposure of several fractures in the UK’s political and constitutional arrangements.

These unresolved fractures— social (class divisions especially); economic (growing income disparities); cultural (the “culture wars” are integral to electoral alignments around Brexit); regional (the north-south divide); national (it is easy to forget that the UK is a multinational state, and the issue of Scottish nationalism and the status of northern Ireland featured prominently in Brexit decision-making); and European—are a further underlying context for the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BoJo Johnson has now tested positive for the virus, along with his health minister, and Prince Charles.

BoJo, who has only one register affording him ease and comfort, a breezy nonchalance, was bragging a short time before that about how he visited hospitals (for photo ops) and shook the hands of everyone he encountered.

The mainstream media should have shown him little sympathy for his reckless self-inflating opportunism, though this was not forthcoming. After all, the preening bastard was putting frontline health professionals at risk in an absolutely vital time merely for his photo ops.

BoJo is 55 years old, and thus not really in one of the COVID-19 risk categories (unless, given his unrelenting erotic enthusiasm, an undisclosed sexually-transmitted disease turns out to be a medical issue potentially complicating his positive test-finding), so he’ll survive this.

But, as is the case with his pal Trump in the US, something like the equivalent of a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome has kicked in for BoJo.

BoJo, though not the proverbial rocket scientist, is much better informed generally (and less demented!) than his orange-hued American counterpart, and so, for instance, knows that hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients need more than 2 ventilators each, and that making egregious suggestions regarding possible “cures” for the virus is best left to those better trained in science and medicine!

At the same time, shades of Trump, BoJo’s approach to the COVID-19 crisis, while cavalier and careless, has actually ensued in a significant increase in his UK opinion-poll popularity!

The world is of course a rather strange place, but this is pretty much the functional equivalent of an inept African despot increasing his 89% popularity-rating to 99% simply because the Ebola virus afflicted his country, as he did fuck-all about it until it was too late!

Social media has invoked the Stockholm Syndrome as the most plausible explanation of such irrationality.

There are now 17,089 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK, with 1,228 deaths. However, the total number of people tested for the virus was 120,776, as of Saturday morning (testing began at the end of January).

Given that the UK’s population is just under 68 million, the number of people tested so far is pathetically small, and it is fair to assume that there are people with the virus among those untested.

The government wants to increase the number of tests to 10,000 a day by the end of March and 25,000 a day by mid-April.

Among the dead are 2 frontline NHS surgeons, their deaths almost certainly caused by a lack of adequate protective equipment.

BoJo has been all over the place in his response to the crisis.

He rejected EU coordination for the production and availably of ventilators (the UK is a member of the EU until the end of this year), fearing that this collaboration would be seen by hardline Brexiters as a weakening of his resolve to leave the EU.

BoJo urged people to stay away from at-risk relatives before telling reporters he would be going to see his mother on Mother’s Day (which fell on 22nd March in the UK).

In the letter being sent to 30 million households at an anticipated cost of £5.8m/$7.2m, BoJo writes mendaciously: “From the start, we have sought to put in the right measures at the right time. We will not hesitate to go further if that is what the scientific and medical advice tells us we must do”.

Not often mentioned at length by the government are the economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. The costs incurred by Brexit will almost certainly put the UK economy into recession, and this will be compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

UK economic output is expected to fall by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of 2020, and unemployment to more than double, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), as businesses shut down and consumer spending plunges as a result of wide-scale lockdowns.

All this is in spite of £330bn/$411bn of government-backed loans for businesses, as well as an extension of business rates relief, both emergency measures taken as a result of the pandemic.

The government has also committed to paying 80% of the salary for workers unable to work during the pandemic, up to a maximum of £2,500/$3100 per month, if they are still on their employer’s payroll.

One further step taken by BoJo is to call in the team of spin doctors used by him in his general election victory a few months ago.

Spin doctors are only good for one thing– “controlling the message”—and propaganda put out by professional liars is the last thing the British public needs in these desperate times.

David Nabarro, Chair of Global Health and co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College, London, said that now is not a “time for blame” but for “collective struggles”, but the Trump and BoJo strategy is the opposite, namely, using “populist” measures to divide and rule their respective electorates.

In any event, Dr Nabarro is wrong– “blame” and “collective struggle” are not mutually exclusive. I’m sure some Brits are not going to swallow everything dished out by BoJo’s spin doctors, and damn right they are!

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on The UK and Covid-19 Crisis

Due to Corona, Israel to Let Palestinian Workers Stay in Workplaces

By: Adel Samara

Sour Question 2054: The entity is playing it right: When it comes to Zionist capital it plays it right, as the fascist and most extreme war minister against the Palestinians and the Arabs allows Palestinian workers to work in their usurped condition provided that they are confined there in labor camps similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews, but this time without killing because they work And they achieve for the capital a surplus value, what is required, i.e. the profit, is realized. The Zionist Minister is sure that the Jewish business owners are immune to Russia, and therefore if it spreads among the Palestinians, this is their fault! This brings back our question half a century ago: What did the PLO and then Oslo’s authority to disengage from the entity’s economy do?
Note: Whoever understands an economy knows that entity leadership is afraid of stagflation

Nazi Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett, decided on Tuesday to let many thousands of Palestinian workers, working inside Israel, to stay for several weeks in ‘Israel’.

Nazi Bennett’s statement, reported by Zionist media, suggested that Palestinian workers, who work in the various sectors with recruitment by Zionist contractors, can stay for a period of one to two months, provided that their contractors produce a statement of guarantee to the concerned Nazi regime.

“Starting Wednesday, those West Bank-based Palestinians, who happen to work or trade in vital sectors, such as health, agriculture and building, can reside in Israel”, Bennet was quoted as saying on Zionist radio.

The Nazi official added that regarding the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the coastal Gaza Strip, a closure of border crossings will remain in place, except for the southern Gaza commercial crossing of Kerem Shalom, of which the Nazi army has exclusive control.

The West Bank city of Bethlehem is reported to have been hit by the Corona Virus, with dozens of cases discovered. Meanwhile, Gaza Strip has been reportedly proved a virus-free region. The Nazi regime has been imposing a blockade on Gaza since 2007, when the Islamist Hamas party took control of the coastal enclave.

These new Nazi measures for Palestinian workers, whose number surpasses 100,000, comes as the Nazi regime has been hit by the internationally-spread Corona Virus.

According to Zionist media, the number of cases of Corona Virus in the Nazi entity has reached 298, with four in critical condition.

Additional Nazi regime measures to counter the virus has been to give unpaid vacations for some employees of the various Nazi ministries, thus reducing the number of those employees to 70% only.

Naziyahu, was quoted as commenting on the situation, “New measures are not yet enforced on public transport means. For the time being, we are not going to impose a lockdown all over the country, yet we may consider enforcing such a lockdown only on areas that prove to be plagued by the Corona Virus”.

Prior to the current Corona Virus crisis that has swept various world countries, more than 100,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank, would go to workplaces inside the Nazi entity, holding special working permits and returning home on daily basis.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Health, Human RightsComments Off on Due to Corona, Israel to Let Palestinian Workers Stay in Workplaces

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