Archive | July 19th, 2020

A Trendy Rage: Boycotting Facebook and the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Rage can be that most trendy of things, and social media rage has become modish. If you dislike something, scream it in a certain number of characters and post it on every network you subscribe to. You might even feel good about it. When the pot is taken off the boil, the matter goes away. Things cool till other ingredients are added. The moralist can keep silent till the next rage breaks.

Few realise that social media campaigns do not necessarily work against the platforms that facilitate them. To wage such a battle against, say, Facebook, is comical in the extreme: such a body is, after all, in the business of mass publicity, algorithmically tailored for its cause. And in this scheme, the only cause (or causes) that ever matter are those of Mark Zuckerberg and his cyber galactic family, digital inbreds par excellence.

We know that anything Zuckerberg says when it comes to the broader ideas of society – freedom, liberty, expression – are all to be taken in the context of the world he has confected. Dark as it is, his idea of digital interaction has, at its core, a leery, hostile understanding of humanity, one that insists on creepy suspicion rather than consolidated understanding. What is important here is facilitation, an effective platform that breathes life into voyeurism at the expense of solidarity, the “experience” that consumers are supposedly meant to have when using it. As he explained to students at Georgetown University in October 2019, “I’ve focused on building services to do two things: give people voice, and bring people together. These two simple ideas – voice and inclusion – go hand in hand.”

Except that they do not. The voice, in such cases, is fundamentally antisocial, combative and provocative. Nothing about this misanthropic surveillance fantasy called Facebook is ever conversational. It is battle, division and, for that reason, perfect for the resentful. As a platform, it is ideal for hate.

With that in mind, another rage-filled campaign has bloomed, and it comes in the form of combating hate speech and misinformation. It also comes with its own dreary, suffixed hashtag, #StopHateForProfit, which begins as an angel in heaven and ends up as a confused, unlettered fundamentalist on earth. In looking at these suddenly transfixed moral warriors who have attached their names to the effort, it is worth bearing what sort of entities we are talking about. (So far, the list seems to include 160 or so companies, but this number warrants closer analysis.) Wolves are turning vegetarian; and vegetarians are shuffling over into the dining room of carnivores. Companies with the moral inclination of Iago are becoming pure in their attack on Facebook, shedding doubts and gunning for their customers as they scratch and paw an entity that made them wads of cash.

An argument about good intentions, which is only ever half good keeping consequences in mind, might be made about the origins of this campaign. It began in the furious, justified rage engendered by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis under the knee of a police officer. Organisations such as Free Press, Common Sense, Color of Change, the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League pooled resources and launched the initiative to lobby Facebook to wean itself off revenue gained from hateful content. The leading words on the campaign site state the challenge clearly: “We are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”

The group cites the following examples of egregious conduct on the part of Facebook. “They named Breitbart News as a ‘trusted news source’ and made The Daily Caller a ‘fact checker’ despite both publications having records of working with known white nationalists.” (The underlying presumption here is that white nationalists cannot peddle accurate news, but non-white nationalists and patriots might.). Voter suppression was ignored. Incitements “to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others” was permitted. It takes issue with the scale of revenue Facebook makes: 99 percent of $70 billion. “Will advertisers stand with us?”

When a company as infuriatingly smug and standardising as Starbucks intends to withdraw its name from your client list, celebrations might be in order, and not just for authentic coffee makers. It is not so much standing with you as fleeing the scene and awaiting a change of heart. Last year, the company found itself in the nether ranks of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, a London-based non-profit intent on scolding it. In 2018, it scored like a dunce. The commitment to respecting human rights fell well short of meeting standards stipulated by the OECD and UN Global Compact. Transparency on human rights in terms of supply chains was found wanting.

But in the league of abuses, even Starbucks must find itself enviously short of an entity that prides itself on its totalitarian drinks image. Be it Colombia, Turkey, Guatemala and Russia, Coca-Cola, which has turned cold on Facebook for the brief period of 30 days, has run roughshod over workers’ rights and drained environments the world over. Its cravings for water have done their share in destroying local agriculture and adding their substantial contribution to global dehydration. Moralising about hate speech in a brief spell of triggered conscience compares poorly as an ethical act relative to the furthering of environmental sustainability.

Other companies who find themselves chorusing in this campaign are also suspect. Verizon, not exactly good on privacy and the incursions of the national security state, is thrilled to keep company with dealing with hate. There are recruitment companies such as Upwork, consumer-giant Unilever, jeans maker Levi Strauss.

These entities are playing the waiting game, as is Zuckerberg. An amoral standoff is taking place. As a creature of eternal, unprincipled patience, the Facebook CEO knows that such companies are playing a short term game here, merely pausing advertisements, and returning to the fold when publicity is less hot. When the social media warriors are asleep, the company executives will plot.

Such campaigns must face the cold realities of the beast they are confronting. Expecting Facebook to monitor hate speech and disinformation is not only expecting much, but expecting something dangerous. To target Facebook on matters of hate, in of itself dangerously vague, is to deal with the transmission of a condition, rather than the condition itself. Teams are already at work monitoring and policing what can or cannot make an appearance on the platform. Those doing so risk becoming the creatures of ruin. To then enlist platoons of information enforcers is tantamount to vesting vast powers of control. What Facebook decides as hateful, goes; what the company deems suitable ill-informed or misinformed, can be scrapped. Pity that world.

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Where did the UK go wrong on coronavirus?

Leading figures from science, medicine and politics deliver their verdict on the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.BY NEW STATESMAN

John Ashton: Austerity and the government’s lost month led to catastrophe

The failure of the UK government to respond effectively to the threat posed by Covid-19 has had far-reaching economic and social consequences, and led to thousands of avoidable deaths. Many factors have contributed to the absence of what should have been a robust response.

The UK is not alone in prioritising hospital medicine and pharmacology over public health. But efforts were made to build a new international public health movement from the 1980s onwards. During the 1997-2010 Labour government, this was demonstrated by the appointment of the first minister for public health, significant investment in local public health teams, and reducing health inequalities through initiatives such as Health Action Zones, Healthy Living Centres and the Sure Start programme. But this approach was thwarted by the 2008 financial crisis and ten years of austerity.

The situation was compounded by the chaotic and disruptive reorganisation of the NHS and the public health service in 2013. This created a centralising new body, Public Health England (PHE), and led to local public health moving from the NHS into local government, with a loss of influence and a weakening of the ties to clinical care.

A consequence of this was the failure to maintain robust planning for large-scale health emergencies. For example, no action was taken to address the weaknesses in pandemic influenza planning identified by Exercise Cygnus in 2016. The scene was set for the catastrophe that was to follow.

We now know that Boris Johnson failed to attend the first five meetings held on Covid-19 by the government’s emergency committee Cobra (his first was on 2 March). That lost month led to the desperate catch-up efforts ever since. The government struggled to secure adequate capacity for testing and tracing, as well as the necessary supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). It also failed to provide timely intelligence to local public health teams to enable effective outbreak control.

These errors were aggravated by the failure to adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation to “test, test, test”, as well as the disastrous, ideologically driven use of private sector organisations to oversee a national programme of testing and tracing, rather than rebuilding local public health capacity. Further missteps included the sloganising news-management approach, rather than one of transparency and public engagement based on a broad range of professional advice; data hoarding by the controlling PHE; and the decision to discharge hospital patients, untested for the virus, to care homes, where they ignited a parallel Covid-19 epidemic.

At this stage in the worst threat to public health for 100 years, in the middle of a premature easing of lockdown, and with the UK recording one of the highest excess death rates, we have little idea what the next weeks will bring. The ramifications for public health and democracy will be profound. We must rebuild our public health system from the bottom up, and strive to restore trust in our political system and professional and scientific advice as a matter of urgency.

John Ashton is a former regional director of Public Health England

[see also: How the UK failed on Covid-19: the international view]

Sadiq Khan: The shameful treatment of care home residents was the biggest failure

The number of people recorded as having died in the UK with Covid-19 is the highest in Europe, and per capita our death toll is among the highest in the world.

There will inevitably be a public inquiry into the government’s handling of this crisis, from which key lessons will emerge. But we don’t need an inquiry to tell us that serious mistakes have been made, with devastating consequences for thousands of families.

The government was late to initiate the lockdown, with ministers dithering during those crucial early days because they were reticent to use the degree of state intervention that was required. Scientists now believe this delay cost many thousands of lives.

The government was also slow to deliver PPE to front-line staff, slow to make face coverings mandatory on public transport, slow to warn of the disproportionate impact Covid-19 is having on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and slow to put in place a testing and tracing system – which is still not fit for purpose.

But when the report from the inquiry is released in the years to come, what will be remembered as the biggest national failure of the pandemic is the shameful way vulnerable care home residents were treated.

What we can’t afford to have now is the same level of incompetence, ineffectiveness and inertia from the government in the case of the economic recovery. We are beginning to see the true scale of the challenge ahead, with unemployment expected to reach levels not seen since the 1980s. We can’t underestimate the profound impact this could have – not only on the economy, but the longer-term mental, social and financial health of those affected and their families.

The government now has a historic responsibility to embark on a programme of unprecedented investment in our economy, in skills and in job creation. I know that it’s possible for us to mitigate the worst economic impacts of Covid-19, avoid more years of austerity and prevent mass unemployment. But it’s going to be up to the government to make this choice and to get this vital part of the national response right.

Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London

Richard Horton: It is not too early to learn the lessons of a mismanaged response

The spectre of a second wave hangs over us. Some infectious disease specialists believe that Covid-19 might be losing its virulence. Most are less sanguine. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said that “the pandemic is accelerating” – across the Americas, south Asia, and the Middle East. “The world is in a new and dangerous phase…” he said. “The virus is still spreading fast, it is still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”

Prolonged lockdowns are certainly not the answer to future waves of Covid-19. School closures are not sustainable. The economy cannot be refrigerated every time the virus spikes. The risks of worsening non-Covid-19-related health are real. Work at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle suggests that Covid-19 displays strong seasonality. In the Northern Hemisphere, some predict that a second wave of the pandemic may arrive in September. The public is likely to have less tolerance for future government mandates to shut down their societies. What if local outbreaks do take off? Modelling suggests that brief lockdowns, followed by relaxations for between two and six weeks, might be enough to cut lines of virus transmission. But one casualty of Covid-19 has been trust in models attempting to forecast the course of the pandemic.

One solution to managing a second wave is early diagnosis, contact tracing, isolation and continual efforts to keep public awareness high. In the UK, the test, trace and isolate system is not fully functional, and won’t be for some months. There have been angry debates about whether physical distancing should be 1m or 2m. The lesson from the HIV pandemic is that no single preventive measure is adequate to control transmission. What matters is combination prevention – in the case of coronavirus, a mix of measures that include hand washing, respiratory hygiene, mask wearing, physical distancing (as much as is possible), and the avoidance of mass gatherings. Politicians and public health officials have not advocated the idea of combination prevention – they should.

Another lesson from HIV is the importance of protecting key populations. Covid-19 is not socially neutral. Coronavirus exploits and accentuates inequalities. The pandemic is plunging as many as 60 million, according to the World Bank, into poverty. Billions of people have had their lives disrupted. Covid-19 has fused with the killing of George Floyd to fuel our collective sense of racial injustice. Our Prime Minister, inexplicably supported by his medical and scientific advisers, says that it is too early to learn the lessons of their mismanaged response.

It’s time to write a new script for humanity. This crisis is not about health. It is about life itself. We have an obligation to remember the consequences of this humanitarian emergency. The needless lives that have been lost. The harms that our government has caused. The failure of our system of science to heed the warnings from Wuhan. There can be no return to what went before. Covid-19 has held up a mirror to society and we have seen the injustices we have for too long left untouched. We can’t turn our gaze away from these appalling realities. We must now ask and answer the question: what do we owe to one another?

Richard Horton is editor-in-chief of the Lancet

Dr Sarah Wollaston: The Prime Minister squandered the trust placed in him

The Prime Minister has said he is “proud” of the government’s record on handling coronavirus. Proud of the 65,000 excess deaths? Proud of his failure to protect care home residents and those who look after them? Proud of the inequality exposed by the death toll across BAME communities, and the hollowing out of the report by Public Health England on this scourge?

The list of failures and missed opportunities is long. We were late into lockdown, inadequately prepared, and we abandoned testing and tracing too early as a result. To that we can add the expensive fiasco of an unworkable contact-tracing app and the sidelining of local public health systems.

A government that will not accept that anything could have been handled differently is doomed to make further mistakes.

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove, issued a rebuke to the government over its misleading spin. Testing statistics were being rendered incomprehensible and meaningless, he warned, because “the aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding”. The same was true of PPE, with weeks of inflated numbers as social care and NHS staff reported they were working unprotected.

It is time for the public health officials who flank ministers to insist on the clarity and independence that their offices should command. Some did so but were axed from future appearances at the daily briefings. These were supposed to replace the unattributed briefings to the media by “No 10 sources” with much-needed openness. But by the end they had become little more than a vehicle for delivering government spin.

The PM has squandered the trust that so many people placed in him. That has serious consequences for public health because trust is essential if people are to listen and adhere to rules that have a major impact on their lives. What are contact tracers to say to those who, like Dominic Cummings, want to pop back to their workplace after being in contact with someone who is feeling ill, or travel hundreds of miles with them, potentially seeding the virus elsewhere?

An effective strategy requires transparency and a willingness to learn from mistakes. We urgently need an inquiry or commission in real time, to ensure this can happen in advance of any second Covid-19 wave.

There are many models. The Commission on Banking Standards, which was set up to provide a rapid response in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, is one. A similar commission of both houses of parliament could adopt a broader approach than is possible for a single select committee. This would benefit from cross-bench expertise in the Lords, and could instruct counsel and hear evidence in public, with a number of specialist panels sitting simultaneously to take a rapid, forward-looking approach.

An inquiry is inevitable, but it is surely better that it be held now – when it could help to save lives in the current crisis – rather than merely gathering dust in the future.

Sarah Wollaston was the chair of the health select committee from 2014-19. She is a former MP for Totnes and GP, now returned to a supporting clinical role in the NHS



No man’s land: Covent Garden on 28 May. Credit: David Cliff/Nurphoto/PA

Mark Woolhouse: History may judge lockdown a monumental mistake

As much of the world grapples with the problem of ending Covid-19 restrictions, it is worth asking how we got into lockdown in the first place. One answer is that it was a panic measure for want of any better response to this emergency (and I supported its introduction in the UK on 23 March for that reason). But there is more to it than that. Lockdown was conceived as part of the WHO’s attempt to eradicate Covid-19. It took months for the WHO to accept that eradication was a hopeless cause – the number of Covid-19 cases worldwide continues to rise – but the damage was done.

One country after another followed the WHO’s lead. Some, such as New Zealand, controlled their first waves quickly; others, including the UK, were slower to respond and have suffered badly. None knows what to do next. As one of my colleagues put it, we have made it to the lifeboat but we have no idea how we’re going to reach the shore.

Covid-19 is not going away any time soon, if at all, so we need to devise alternative solutions. It’s concerning that lockdown is still the WHO’s recommended public health response six months into the pandemic. No Plan B is being offered to countries such as Brazil or India that can’t or won’t inflict such a damaging policy on their peoples.

The vital step is to recognise that this unpleasant virus is not equally unpleasant for everyone. Age is by far the most important risk factor. In the UK, the chances of dying from Covid-19 are at least 10,000 times greater for the over-75s than the under-15s. Yet we worry as much about schools as we do about care homes.

Our priority should be to protect the old and others at greatest risk. Shielding through self-isolation cannot be a sustainable solution; we need to shift emphasis from reducing social contacts to making those contacts safe. Testing has a significant role to play but we need to be more ambitious about scale and speed, concentrating first on those in close contact with those most at risk. If we had focused on this from the outset we might have saved thousands of lives and avoided locking down our children and damaging their futures in so many ways.

The longer we remain in the limbo of lockdown the more we are harming the world’s economies, healthcare provision, our mental health and our children’s education. When the reckoning comes we may well find that the cure turned out to be far worse than the disease, devastating though the disease undoubtedly is. I fear that history will judge lockdown as a monumental mistake on a truly global scale.

Mark Woolhouse is a member of the Scottish Government Covid-19 Advisory Group and professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh

Jonathan Powell: Johnson and Cummings have shown spectacular incompetence

Boris Johnson repeatedly told us the UK’s response to Covid-19 would be “world-beating”. Well it has been, but perhaps not in the sense he intended. Britain has achieved one of the highest death tolls relative to population size in Europe, and is forecast to suffer the largest fall in national income in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Achieving either would have been remarkable, but achieving both is spectacular. Sweden risked more deaths but at least saved its economy.

We don’t need to wait for the inquiry to tell us how this happened: we closed down too late, we mismanaged PPE, we failed on test and trace, and on and on.

Who is responsible? Once an inquiry is held, the government will try to blame PHE, the NHS, the civil service, scientists and even the hapless Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. But the blame lies with No 10.

There are three fundamental flaws in the Johnson-Cummings prime ministership that have proved fatal. First, you cannot run a government in the same way you run a campaign. I know, because Labour tried to do so in 1997 and had to change rapidly. Different skills are required to run complex government machinery. By importing the Vote Leave campaign – both personnel and manner of working – into No 10, Johnson and Cummings have left a gap of management. The painstaking work involved in tackling the pandemic is not the same as devising three-word slogans to put on podiums. It is paradoxical that a No 10 that for the first time has daily polling and focus groups has lost public support faster than any previous government.

Second, over-centralisation can be catastrophic in these circumstances. Trying to run the whole government machine through a network of special advisers reporting to one person slows everything down. You need a system that can respond at the local level to different circumstances and do so swiftly, as in Germany. And by staffing the whole machine with true believers you end up with pensée unique and a lack of challenge to daft ideas or plain mistakes. Add to this the bunker mentality, into which No 10 has slipped remarkably early, in which everyone else is regarded as both useless and an enemy, and you have a recipe for trouble.

Most important is the character of the Prime Minister. It is not that Johnson is a clown, an inveterate liar and so lazy he is trying to do the job part time – although those failings contribute. The real problem is that he is indecisive. Famously, he had to write one article in favour of Brexit and one against before he could decide which position to take. And so with Covid-19 he took the decision on lockdown too late because he couldn’t decide which way to go.

Prime ministers such as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were decisive because they were conviction politicians and had a sense of direction. Johnson wanted to be king of the world but has no convictions. He doesn’t much care whether we go this way or that and so can’t decide until it is too late.

The one thing the public expect of a leader is the ability to manage a crisis. The incompetence that Johnson and Cummings have demonstrated in handling one will not be easily forgiven or forgotten.

Jonathan Powell was No 10 chief of staff from 1997 to 2007



Credit: Andre Carrilho

Robert West: The government put political priorities ahead of public health

To date, the UK has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world by the Covid-19 pandemic. The average age of the population, and the prevalence of health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, may have contributed to a relatively high infection-mortality ratio. However, it has become evident that many thousands of deaths could have been avoided had the government acted differently in readiness and responsiveness.

In terms of readiness, the UK’s health and social care system had been hollowed out by underfunding and by outsourcing to for-profit contractors. The NHS was already in crisis, and critical care capacity was among the lowest in Europe. Social care was largely privatised, run on a shoe-string and staffed by a dedicated but underpaid workforce. Public health infrastructure had been destroyed, and despite dire warnings arising from Exercise Cygnus in 2016, epidemic preparedness had been downgraded.

In terms of responsiveness, the government failed to enact epidemic control procedures until it was too late. Instead it focused on putting out reassuring messages based on a kind of jingoistic exceptionalism; on keeping the economy going rather than following the example of other countries and WHO advice to act quickly to suppress the pandemic. This has meant that we have consistently been behind the curve – an exponential growth curve, amounting to thousands of unnecessary deaths and many people suffering from horrific disease.

We were late in stemming the influx of infection from abroad, late in sourcing PPE, late in protecting care homes, late in implementing social distancing measures, and late in setting up test, trace and isolate systems.

These failures have arisen because the government has put political priorities ahead of public health. The crisis has been seen as an exercise in reputation management and expediency. Each failure has been met with denial, obfuscation and reassurance. As the pressure has mounted, the government has retreated into a command-and-control bunker. This approach shows no signs of changing but it will have to if we are to avoid a death toll running into six figures.

Robert West is a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, which advises Sage, and professor of public health psychology at University College London

Allyson Pollock: Spending cuts and privatisation have left us without a functioning social care system

Covid-19 has forced us to confront three realities. First, that we are all vulnerable; second, that we all have an absolute need for a functioning health and social care system; and third, that decades of underinvestment, privatisation and fragmentation have damaged our public services.

Hospital closures and cuts to primary care, public health and communicable disease services, coupled with privatisation and fragmentation, left our health services unprepared. The NHS became a Covid-19-only service as most routine care stopped, including reductions in cancer care, cardiac care and rehabilitation. There are now thousands of excess deaths from non-Covid conditions.

The UK also lacks a functioning social care system. Deaths from Covid-19 mainly occur among older people, particularly those over 80. By 23 June, the majority of the 65,000-plus excess deaths in the UK had occurred among those aged 75 and over, and many in care homes. The government failed to protect the 1.5 million disabled, elderly and chronically ill people who have essentially been in solitary confinement for 15 weeks.

The government failed to protect citizens because it failed to take control of social services. According to a 2017 report, there are around 410,000 residents in UK care homes, with around 5,500 different providers operating 11,300 homes for older people. For-profit providers own 84 per cent of care home beds, with a further 13 per cent provided by the voluntary sector. Social services are also underfunded: between 2010-11 and 2017-18 government funding for local authorities fell by 49 per cent in real terms. Spending on adult social care fell from £16.1bn in 2009-10 to £14.8bn in 2018-19.

Underfunding, coupled with diversion of resources to shareholders, means understaffing, and understaffing leads to poor quality care. Adult care services in England employ roughly 1.6 million care staff (1.1 million full-time equivalent), of which 78 per cent are employed by the independent sector. Pay is low; 24 per cent of the adult social care workforce are on zero-hour contracts, and in March 2019 around a quarter were being paid the then national minimum wage of £7.83 per hour.

The sector is 120,000 workers short, which results in inadequate care, while the use of agency staff moving between homes increases the risk of disease transmission. Staff on zero-hour contracts do not receive sick pay, and often go to work when sick.

Social care has been a low priority despite the high mortality associated with Covid-19 among older adults and the increased risk for social care staff. With residents in care homes denied visits from relatives and with minimal interactions with staff, care homes have become closed institutions, increasing the risk of neglect, even abuse.

The government must take control of staffing and social care. It should have doubled the staffing levels, redeploying medical students, nursing students, and clinical staff from the quiet parts of the NHS into this sector. The disinvestment in health and social care has had shameful consequences. To prevent future catastrophes, the government must pass legislation for a publicly funded, publicly operated and fully integrated National Health and Care Service.

Allyson Pollock is director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science and a public health physician

Ian Boyd: All countries fell short but the UK should be especially concerned

The possibility of a pandemic such as Covid-19 has been high on the UK National Risk Register for many years. We practised regularly for pandemics and yet, in the end, we were not well prepared. Why? There are at least five core reasons.

First, these risks were not communicated appropriately to the public. People understand the risk from terrorism but they are mostly unaware of the risk from natural events such as pandemics. They are even less aware of systemic risks such as food supply failure. Consequently, in the absence of the necessary public support, the government’s risk analyses had almost no policy impact.

Second, the national risk assessment process is itself flawed. The probability of each individual national risk may be small but the total risk from all of them is higher and most likely increasing. Yet little is done to understand and manage this aggregate risk. Its drivers include population growth, accompanied by rising consumption and resource depletion, increasing global connectedness and high leverage of assets including lean supply chains. All had important parts to play in creating the current pandemic.

Third, when risks manifest we need to act decisively. Many countries, including the UK, were too slow and indecisive. A combination of bad luck and poor prescience, and in some cases poor organisation, dragged some countries deeper into the Covid-19 crisis. Many developed countries – where we would have expected better organisation – were slow to respond and struggled, both politically and practically, to absorb the magnitude of what they were facing.

Fourth, science (including medical science) created an unjustified sense of protection. While science has powered the response, countries that invest heavily in science were not necessarily quicker or more effective at responding. Coronaviruses were a known quantity, suggesting that more needs to be done to direct scientific effort towards serving the national interest based on the known level of risk.

Finally, there are inadequacies in public health systems. This is more than an issue of coping with the acute effects of epidemics because Covid-19 has exposed vulnerabilities among sections of society related to ethnicity and wealth. Much of the impact of Covid-19 has not yet surfaced in developing countries. These are deep-seated problems that will not be fixed by simply spending more money on clinical healthcare.

All advanced economies have failed to cope with the Covid-19 challenge. The UK should be especially concerned. Covid-19 has created a systemic failure, suggesting that the way we live, what we value and the way we are governed needs to change.

Ian Boyd is a contributor to Sage and a professor of biology at the University of St Andrews

Michael Heseltine: A no-deal Brexit threatens further economic devastation

Informed criticism requires a factual knowledge of a practical alternative. In this context I refrain from criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. This is not to deny the existence of criticism; it is rather to recognise that every ministerial decision has required a judgement between unpalatable options. Saving lives in the face of Covid-19, for instance, risks endangering life elsewhere.

The government has rightly presented its scientific advisers to public scrutiny, but the decisions are ultimately political. The incidence of Covid-19 has fallen significantly. Allowing for the differing social, ethnic and distributional factors between comparable states, the government is entitled to claim it has coped reasonably well. With no specialist knowledge or relevant experience, and locked down in rural England, I cannot know what I would have done differently.

I take a different view of the government’s planning for our economic recovery. Brexit may have disappeared from the headlines, but the stark choices of its reality remain. In six months, the UK will either crash out of the EU without a deal or cobble together a set of compromises. In both cases, the adjustments will add to the economic devastation evident in every new set of statistics.

We are now expected to wait while the Prime Minister plans a major speech and the Chancellor a mini-Budget. More revealing of the government’s thinking was the recent announcement by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, of specific policies backed by borrowed money, all targeted within his departmental responsibilities. This was a typical set of standard counter-cyclical policies dreamed up in Whitehall by officials only remotely linked to the priorities of economic recovery, as they are seen in England’s towns and cities, the engine rooms of our recovery.

The proposals for bus lanes, cycle tracks, bypasses and other transport initiatives, followed by one departmental announcement after another (money for housing, cash for training, help for schools, finance for research), may be important. But they fail to recognise the benefits of determining priorities locally and fitted to local need, generating the most productive response and attracting the largest additional investment.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, local decisions drive policy. In our major cities in England it is the conurbation mayors who should be playing the lead role, planning recovery based on the opportunities within their reach, harnessing the strengths they possess and attacking the weaknesses as they know them to be.

The mayors have been instructed to lead their communities in devising strategies to coordinate public and private endeavour. The hunger is there. But faced with the most acute economic challenge of modern times, the government appears to cling to the old mantra – Whitehall knows best.

Michael Heseltine is a non-affiliated peer and the former deputy prime minister

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan: Ministers are failing to tackle the mental health crisis

Ahead of the 72nd birthday of the NHS, it is vital that the workforce, who have sacrificed so much, are recognised, respected and remembered. Front-line staff, who have given so much to protect us during this pandemic, have received so little in return. The government was too slow to distribute PPE and roll out testing for staff and their families. It is now too slow to tackle the looming mental health crisis among staff and the wider population.

Throughout this pandemic, front-line NHS and care staff have been in an unenviable position: they have been redeployed to other departments, have been scared of going to work, and have lost patients – and colleagues. Coronavirus has stripped the humanity from grieving. Delivering the news that someone’s loved one has died over the phone, with the inability to put an arm around someone while they grieve, is something that medics have simply not trained for. It feels robotic. Sterile. Inhumane.

It has been heartbreaking to witness the toll this virus has been having on the mental health of NHS and care staff. As the UK moves beyond the acute stage of the crisis, they will not be able to rest. With elective procedures, cancer treatments and mental health services all anticipating a surge in demand, the government needs to stop ignoring the needs of front-line workers.

In the month after being activated, the mental health hotline launched by the government for NHS staff was utilised by just 0.1 per cent of them. With five million days lost due to mental health reasons in the NHS in 2019 alone, the current offer is at best inadequate, and at worst neglectful.

The government must ensure that mental health support is available now, for all NHS workers and care staff, for as long as they need it – this must include post-traumatic stress disorder services. All staff, from porters to doctors, cleaners to carers, have experienced the burden of coronavirus together. No one should be left to carry this alone.

It is time for the government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to protect our loved ones. Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.

Rosena Allin-Khan is shadow minister for mental health, MP for Tooting and a doctor

Lawrence Freedman: The government was too slow – but should cope better with the next stage

This is not, to use Churchill’s words, the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning. The first desperate stage of the battle against Covid-19 is coming to a close and a more relaxed period beckons. But already countries that seemed to have done a far better job than the UK in suppressing the virus are seeing it creep back. As people return to work and play, the opportunities for the virus to spread multiply. It is landing in more places, especially in the Americas, and is going to be sufficiently active around the world for the foreseeable future that no territory, other than the most remote, will be spared. If the disease is able to survive during hot summers what will it be like as winter approaches and it can mingle with seasonal flu?

There are more stages to come. The eventual verdict on the UK government’s performance will depend as much on what happens over the rest of the year as on the first half. Clearly the report card for the first half will make uncomfortable reading. The government was too slow to respond to evidence of the growing danger early in the year, and then delayed moving to lockdown. At each stage the country was hampered by inadequate testing and insufficient stocks of PPE. The NHS was spared from being wholly overwhelmed but many care homes were not. The government struggled to find the right words to explain the predicaments and the options. Too many initiatives were labelled “world-beating” in anticipation and then failed to deliver.

Yet the government really should be able to cope better with the next stage. There are no longer reports of PPE shortages. The testing capacity has been enhanced. There may not be an app, but effective contact tracing always depended much more on personnel, and they are in place. All is not yet right with the system but hopefully it is starting to work more efficiently. If it doesn’t, and substantial outbreaks are not detected before they have got a grip on particular communities, then this will be as serious a failure as those of the first stage. If, however, new outbreaks can be reduced then the sectors in which the UK has genuine international strength will become even more important.

The quality of the biomedical science, the experience of clinical trials, a supportive regulator, the large pharmaceuticals and substantial government funding – these factors have already produced one breakthrough on treatments and may yet result in an early vaccine. The painful memories of the past few months cannot be expunged but perhaps we can end on a positive note.

Lawrence Freedman is emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London

Gabriel Scally: The UK must transform its public health model to be ready for the next pandemic

Last week I was asked: “What do you think that the government has done well?” This is the only question during the Covid-19 crisis that has left me flummoxed. Looking back on the trail of missed opportunity, slow response and secret science, I find myself drawn back to some of the decisions of the 2010 coalition government.

In 2010, the regional offices of government in England were abolished. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act abolished the regional and local infrastructure of the NHS and of public health. The restructure of both public health and the NHS in England created multiple national bodies trying to manage through organisational jigsaws that few observers could comprehend and that made little sense to those working within them.

The weakness in public health functioning at a regional and local level in England was matched across the UK by the paucity of public health leadership in governmental structures. It has been noted that there was an absence of public health input among the external members of Sage.

Bons mots such as, “the right steps at the right time”, “it wouldn’t have a big effect on transmission” and “we are following the science” became triggers for disbelief rather than reassurance. The withering away of trust was a more potent backdrop than the carefully draped Union flags at the daily press conferences.

When the Covid-19 pandemic draws to a close, whether in months or years, the painful fact that it could all happen again with another novel microbiological threat will have to be acknowledged. There is no guarantee we will have years to wait until something similar occurs. The risk remains the same, so we need to start to rebuild our public health capacity and leadership across the UK. We must strengthen the role and powers of local directors of public health and give them genuine influence in both health services and local authorities, re-establish regional organisational (including resilience planning) in England, and build permanent stockpiles of the equipment that we need to cope with the next pandemic.

Gabriel Scally is president of the epidemiology and public health section of the Royal Society of Medicine



Protect and serve: a medical worker adjusts a colleague’s PPE in the

intensive care unit at the Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. Credit: Neil Hall/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty

Dr David Wrigley: Ministers insulted and let down doctors who gave everything

The devastation wrought by Covid-19 is relentless for all: for doctors, other health and social care workers, and the whole country, which has suffered at least 43,000 deaths. Doctors have put all their dedication, skills and professionalism into caring for their patients. Many have carried out their duties at grave risk to themselves, with some losing their lives to the virus.

It is the role of the British Medical Association (BMA) to ensure that we support doctors and voice their concerns and well-grounded fears at this moment of unprecedented need. Many healthcare workers feel that the Conservative government’s response to the pandemic has been inadequate, obfuscatory and confusing. It has been inactive or too slow, from the start of lockdown to the latest climbdown on the promised operation to trace those who have been exposed to coronavirus. This jeopardises the reopening of the UK’s struggling economy and risks a second wave of deaths.

At the start of the crisis, despite ministers’ assurances that adequate supplies of PPE were reaching hospitals, we heard from doctors that they were not. Doctors and other healthcare workers were let down by a failure to provide this potentially life- saving equipment in a timely way. This meant that in the early days of the pandemic 55 per cent of hospital doctors in a BMA survey felt pressured to work in a high-risk area without adequate protective equipment.

Nothing characterises government deafness on the issue better than the Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s urging of NHS workers to “treat PPE as the precious resource it is”, implying a cavalier attitude in its use. This was followed by the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s half-hearted apology over the failure of supplies. As early as 3 April, the BMA called on the government to deal with this problem by repurposing a dormant UK industry to help make vital PPE.

Contact tracing was supposed to be the bridge between lockdown and a vaccine, but we’re now told that the tracing app has been abandoned. The test and trace programme is fundamental to the government’s strategy of identifying cases and isolating infected individuals to stop the virus’s spread. Having invested huge amounts of time, energy and money, the government will instead switch to a decentralised app. More time lost. More lives at risk.

The Westminster government’s handling of the pandemic has also been dependent on the private sector for many important functions, and has been characterised by an excessive emphasis on theatrical politics.

What we need now is public confidence in a proper and competent system of contact tracing that will reduce the incidence of Covid-19. To use the Prime Minister’s words, it is imperative that there is no more “dither and delay”. The government needs to own up and learn from its mistakes, and backed by scientific evidence, take the country forward transparently, collegiately and, above all, safely.

David Wrigley is a GP and deputy chair of the British Medical Association council

Nick Hargrave: The bad news for No 10 is that things are going to get harder

No 10’s response to coronavirus has been in the eye of the beholder; the debate is polarised and many analysts have found it hard to disaggregate their preconceptions from the facts. In reality, the government’s handling of the crisis so far has been a middling one.

On the plus side, the NHS has been more resilient than expected and did not lose control as in Spain and Italy. Excess deaths look high by international standards but there are variations in how the statistics are recorded, as well as underlying factors such as population density and obesity rates to bear in mind. The immediate economic response from Rishi Sunak has been comparative to that of other European countries.

But the UK was slow to embrace large-scale social distancing in early March. There was a lack of forward planning on testing and tracing. Communication has been poor.

Although approval ratings for Boris Johnson and his handling of the crisis have receded, they are still at reasonable levels. Voters seem willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt for most mistakes.

The bad news for No 10 is that things are going to get harder. No one can predict the course of the crisis from here – although I suspect that most would still view a second spike as a natural disaster rather than one generated by the government.

The real problems for No 10 are going to come on the economic front. The pandemic has been a profound shock that will reduce long-term demand for specific products, services and sectors of the economy.

The economics will in turn dictate the politics. Businesses will have to adapt or close and this will lead to real human suffering. The older and lower skilled in the deindustrialised north, who underpinned Boris Johnson’s majority last December, will be hurt by this crisis; so will younger voters at the beginning of their careers. Most will understand that governments do not create jobs, but they will expect Johnson to spend big and tax “other people” to pay for relief.

There is latitude for government borrowing over the next few years but it will eventually have to be brought under control. The timing of this fiscal consolidation, and how it maps against the electoral cycle, is the greatest challenge to the durability of this Conservative government.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser who worked for both David Cameron and Theresa May

Zubaida Haque The pandemic laid bare our race and class inequalities

Despite more than 70 years of achievements by the civil rights movement in the US, and the establishment of race relations legislation in the UK, racism remains a matter of life and death. Covid-19 has illustrated the realities of racism in a less dramatic way than deaths in police custody, but the number of fatalities is far greater. The pandemic didn’t create race and class inequalities, but has laid them bare for all to see.

The evidence that black and ethnic minority groups in the UK – in particular black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups – have been hit the hardest by Covid-19 is indisputable. Almost every data source agrees.

This includes BAME women. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that more than half of pregnant women hospitalised with Covid-19 across the UK (between 1 March and 14 April) were from BAME backgrounds.

In response to a public outcry about the disproportionate number of deaths among BAME NHS workers and within the community, the government commissioned a review into the possible “disparities” (not “inequalities”) in Covid-19 outcomes among ethnic groups. But even before the review began the terms of reference revealed that the review would be investigating other factors besides ethnicity (including age, gender, obesity and other factors).

Public Health England released the review findings in early June, but there was disappointment and anger among race and faith equality organisations (including the Runnymede Trust), public health professionals, and black and ethnic minority communities who had lost relatives to the pandemic. Out of 89 pages of the review into “disparities in… risks and outcomes”, only 11 addressed the question of why black and ethnic minority people in the UK might be more vulnerable to serious illness and death with Covid-19. There was not a single recommendation on how to save BAME lives.

Despite the equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, saying that “Public Health England did not make recommendations” due to gaps in the data, the government eventually released a third-party evidence report, Beyond the Data: Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on BAME Groups. The report, which contained consultations with more than 4,000 stakeholders, highlighted “racism and discrimination experienced by communities and more specifically by BAME key workers as a root cause affecting health, and exposure risk and disease progression risk”.

The irony that the government allegedly withheld a report with seven recommendations – including better data collection by ethnicity, more health risk assessments for ethnic minority workers and disseminating culturally sensitive health messaging – for fear of exacerbating tensions during Black Lives Matter protests was not missed.

BAME communities are over-represented among poorer socio-economic groups. They are more likely to live in densely populated areas, in overcrowded and multigenerational housing, and to work in higher Covid-19-risk occupations. But the government took few steps to protect them. Race and gender equality organisations, and the anti-poverty sector, made recommendations about the need to increase the social security safety net and remove barriers to healthcare. But these measures were met with silence.

When it comes to addressing issues of structural racial inequalities or racism, the government’s first instinct is to kick the ball into the long grass. How can the government save lives if it keeps burying the evidence? The answer is not to commission yet another review; it is to take action.

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on Where did the UK go wrong on coronavirus?

Trump vs Biden: who is leading the 2020 US election polls?

Use the FT’s interactive calculator and the latest polling data to zero in on which states’ electoral college votes are most essential to winning the presidencyLAST UPDATED 11 HOURS AGOElectoral college votes308Joe BidenDEMOCRAT131Donald TrumpREPUBLICAN270 to win188120993794Solid (188)Calif55NY29Ill20NJ14Wash12Mass11Md10Conn7Oreg7NMex5Hawaii4RI4DC3Del3Vt3Maine-11Leaning (120)Flor29Penn20Mich16Virg13Minn10Wisc10Colo9Nev6NH4Maine2Neb-21Toss-up (99)Texas38Ohio18Geor16NCar15Ariz11Maine-21States where the difference in poll numbers between Biden and Trump is less than 5 percentage points are classified as ‘toss-up’ states.Leaning (37)Misso10SCar9Iowa6Utah6Alaska3Mont3Solid (94)Ind11Tenn11Alab9Ken8Lou8Okla7Ark6Kans6Missi6WVirg5Idaho4NDak3SDak3Wyo3Neb2Neb-11Neb-31How Biden and Trump are polling in the closest statesAverage poll margin in percentage points42024Biden leadsTrump leadsGeorgiaTexasNorth CarolinaArizonaOhioKEYBAR HEIGHT SHOWSNUMBER OF ELECTORALCOLLEGE VOTESIncludes states with more than one recent poll

With just over three months to go before the election, national polls show former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee, at a significant advantage over incumbent Republican president Donald Trump. But because of the US electoral college system, the outcome will probably come down to a few key states.

Currently, Mr Biden is polling ahead of Mr Trump in key battlegrounds like Florida, where Covid cases have surged in recent weeks. White seniors in particular, a group that helped propel Mr Trump to victory in 2016, have shown signs of disapproval towards the president’s handling of the pandemic. In Texas, where the difference in poll numbers between Mr Biden and Mr Trump is less than 5 percentage points, a few recent polls have given Mr Biden a slight advantage, suggesting a close race in November in the quintessential red state. The coronavirus has realigned voters’ concerns and behaviour. For recent developments in voter sentiment, see the monthly FT-Peterson Economic Monitor.

After Mr Trump’s 2016 victory, many Americans, including supporters of Mr Biden, are apt to mistrust the polls, especially at the state level. Think the polls have it wrong in the most important states? Use our interactive calculator below to select who you think will win each state.

Methodology

The FT poll tracker is based on data from Real Clear Politics. We calculate poll averages for Biden and Trump in each state using an exponential decay formula, which gives more weight to recent polls. We then use these averages to determine whether a state is ‘solid’, ‘leaning’, or a ‘toss-up’. States where the difference between the two candidates is more than 10 percentage points are classified as ‘solid’, while those with a difference of less than 5 percentage points are classified as ‘toss-up’ states. If a state has less than two polls in the past 60 days, we use the Cook Political Report Electoral College Ratings to categorise it. We consider Cook’s ‘likely’ and ‘lean’ states ‘leaning’ in our classification. For several hours on June 23, we included states with only one poll.

Most states use a ‘winner-takes-all’ method to allocate electoral college votes: the winner of the state’s popular vote receives all of its electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, however, the winner in each congressional district receives one electoral vote and the statewide winner is awarded two electoral votes.Polls collected by

RealClearPolitics

Key presidential races calculator

Joe Biden and Donald Trump each need 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Most states are leaning or solidly in favour of one candidate, but in some states the race is too close to call. These toss-up states are ranked below, with the closest races shown first. Which way do you think they will vote?

Pick a presidential winner by selecting who you think will win each state
If the election were held today, Biden’s advantage in solid and leaning states suggests he can secure an electoral college majority without toss-up states, leaving Trump with a narrower path to victory.

Trump (131)

Biden (308)Toss-up (99)270 to winReset state selectionsToss-up statesTOSS-UPBiden +0.1Texas38
VotesBidenTrumpTOSS-UPBiden +2North Carolina15
VotesBidenTrumpTOSS-UPBiden +3Arizona11
VotesBidenTrumpTOSS-UPBiden +3Ohio18
VotesBidenTrumpTOSS-UPTrump +4Georgia16
VotesBidenTrumpTOSS-UPMaine (District 2)1
VoteBidenTrumpLeaning statesLEANING DEMOCRATBiden +6Wisconsin10
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATBiden +7Pennsylvania20
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANTrump +7Missouri10
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATBiden +7Florida29
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATBiden +8Michigan16
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANAlaska3
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANIowa6
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANMontana3
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANSouth Carolina9
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING REPUBLICANUtah6
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATColorado9
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATMaine (Statewide)2
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATMinnesota10
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATNebraska (District 2)1
VoteBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATNevada6
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATNew Hampshire4
VotesBidenTrumpLEANING DEMOCRATVirginia13
VotesBidenTrumpSolid states

Posted in USAComments Off on Trump vs Biden: who is leading the 2020 US election polls?

Using Trump’s ‘vision’ to break free of past frameworks

There are many ways in which the impending disaster of further Israeli annexation and dispossession can be countered and transformed into opportunities.

BY:  YARA HAWARI

Palestinian women wave Palestinian flags during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip, on April 15, 2018. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

PALESTINIAN WOMEN WAVE PALESTINIAN FLAGS DURING CLASHES WITH ISRAELI SECURITY FORCES NEAR THE BORDER WITH ISRAEL, EAST OF KHAN YUNIS IN THE SOUTHERN GAZA STRIP, ON APRIL 15, 2018. (PHOTO: ASHRAF AMRA/APA IMAGES)

Many mainstream political ideas about the future of Palestine are primarily concerned with the containment of indigenous Palestinians and security for the Israeli settler state. The most recent manifestation of this was the Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future for Israel and the Palestinian People.” This “vision” proposed nothing less than Palestinian capitulation in which Palestinians in the West Bank would be encased in a series of Bantustans and the Gaza Strip would remain a besieged enclave while the rights of Palestinians in exile, including those of refugees, would be forsaken.

Trump’s vision – effectively dictated by the Israeli right – does not radically break from what has previously been presented to Palestinians as possible futures. Rather, it follows a tradition of peace proposals over the past decades in which Palestinian futures are not premised on fundamental rights and Palestinian aspirations of sovereignty are disregarded. Some argue that the Trump vision is more candid than prior peace efforts in that it blatantly depicts what the US and Israel consider an acceptable form of Palestinian statehood: The map proposed by the vision document provides an accurate reflection of the current geopolitical reality on the ground.

The Palestinian leadership has responded weakly, continuing to adhere to a political line that has led the Palestinian people to their most vulnerable point in history since 1948. Moreover, Palestinian leaders have been misdirecting their hopes onto actors who have demonstrated over decades that they do not have the political will to deliver on Palestinian rights such as the European Union and its member states. They have also been pursuing unpopular and unstrategic political dialogues, such as the PLO-sanctioned “communication committee” that met with Israeli politicians from the Israeli Labor Party (Meretz) in Tel Aviv in February 2020. The latest declaration by Abbas to cancel all agreements with Israel and America follows previous similar declarations and threats which amounted to very little. The extent to which this is carried out this time remains to be seen.

Despite these obstacles, Palestinians can use the Trump “vision” to break free of the political frameworks that have limited their rights and freedoms for so long. There are many ways in which the impending disaster of further Israeli annexation and dispossession can be countered and transformed into opportunities. Here are just three.

  • For many Palestinians the illusion that negotiations would fulfil Palestinian rights was shattered in the years following the Oslo Accords, when it became clear that the agreement would lead to Palestinian capitulation. However, for much of the rest of the world the illusion is only beginning to shatter. Understanding this reality is key if third parties genuinely want to secure Palestinian rights. Equally important is moving forward with a rights first-based approach, that is, one that acknowledges the inherent power imbalance between Palestinians and Israelis and seeks to achieve Palestinian fundamental rights before political negotiations. Pushing third parties in this direction will require concentrated and strategic efforts by Palestinian civil society and the Palestine solidarity movement to educate and hold third parties accountable, particularly in Europe, given their past willingness to let the US lead the so called ‘peace-process’
  • The tepid global response to Trump’s vision despite its total undermining of international law demonstrates the limits of the international legal regime in protecting Palestinians from aggressive Israeli colonialism. Enthusiasts of international law should take note: It is imperative that Palestinians consider international law as only one tool in a wider strategy of resistance and redistribute energy to other tools, such as boycotts, rebuilding community networks, and strengthening solidarity with other struggles.
  • The reality outlined above means that Palestinians must reset their political agenda and strategy. To do this they need an accountable, legitimate, and representative leadership that can put forward a future vision built on a broad consensus amongst Palestinians. In the absence of sovereignty and self-rule it is necessary to consider alternative ways in which this representation and consensus can be achieved outside of the current structural confines. Indeed, Palestinian history provides us with a wealth of examples where revolutionary legitimacy and democracy can be practised outside of the current confines, including those imposed by foreign donors. The 1936-9 Palestine-wide uprising against British rule, the PLO’s success in bringing the Palestinian narrative on a hostile West between 1968 and 1988, and the committees and revolutionary groups of the First Intifada (uprising) are just three examples that provide many such lessons.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Using Trump’s ‘vision’ to break free of past frameworks

Annexation is a war crime

BY BADIA DWAIK

Palestinians hold placards and national flags during a demonstration against Israel's West Bank annexation plans in Gaza City on July 1, 2020. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emboldened by the US Mideast plan released in January, has vowed to annex the Jordan Valley in addition to 135 settlements that are already considered illegal by the international community an estimated 30% of the occupied West Bank. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

PALESTINIANS HOLD PLACARDS AND NATIONAL FLAGS DURING A DEMONSTRATION AGAINST ISRAEL’S WEST BANK ANNEXATION PLANS IN GAZA CITY ON JULY 1, 2020. ISRAEL’S PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, EMBOLDENED BY THE US MIDEAST PLAN RELEASED IN JANUARY, HAS VOWED TO ANNEX THE JORDAN VALLEY IN ADDITION TO 135 SETTLEMENTS THAT ARE ALREADY CONSIDERED ILLEGAL BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AN ESTIMATED 30% OF THE OCCUPIED WEST BANK. (PHOTO: ASHRAF AMRA/APA IMAGES)

Palestinians have faced many curves and zigzags before, but today we face our greatest challenge yet since Donald Trump took office. His added support for Israel’s racist and expansionist policies—through his blindness and outright recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his promoting the “deal of the century”— aims to liquidate the Palestinian issue and to end any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the future.

Weeks ago Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex 30% of the West Bank on July 1, although he pushed past that deadline today. That land is a main component of the 22% of historic Palestine that is the basis for establishing a Palestinian state in the framework of a two-state solution. Specifically, the land is from the Jordan Valley, which is the Palestinian bread basket and produces about 60% of our agriculture. This is because the region has access to water, the weather is temperate and the soil is rich. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown here throughout the year. 

Palestinian work fields near the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc between Hebron and Bethlehem in the West Bank on June 30, 2020. Israel aims to begin a process of annexing West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. (Photo: Mosab Shawer/APA Images)
PALESTINIAN WORK FIELDS NEAR THE ISRAELI SETTLEMENT OF EFRAT IN THE GUSH ETZION SETTLEMENT BLOC BETWEEN HEBRON AND BETHLEHEM IN THE WEST BANK ON JUNE 30, 2020. ISRAEL AIMS TO BEGIN A PROCESS OF ANNEXING WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS AND THE JORDAN VALLEY. (PHOTO: MOSAB SHAWER/APA IMAGES)

What is happening now is that Israel is taking advantage the Trump administration’s support to implement the aspects of the “deal of the century” that are the most beneficial to it, keeping in mind no party has signed onto this deal. At the same time, Arab governments are preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, although Arab inaction is increasingly common at this point, especially in the Gulf where the Trump administration has forged closer ties. 

While we do not know when Netanyahu will resume his annexation bid, our crisis is not over. Daily systematic abuses of the occupation continues and ethnic cleansing continues,  driving forward the practice of annexation despite no formal announcement. Tomorrow, Palestinians will still live under Israeli occupation, one that controls the most acute details of our lives. Recent years have thrust us into an unbearable hell. Unemployment before the pandemic was 24% and youth unemployment was 34% (over 60% in Gaza) which is all the more alarming because Palestinian society is a young community. 

Our political options to rectify this economic collapse have been blocked over the years by Israel’s refusal to implement international agreements, including the two-state solution that it signed onto during the Oslo process, and UN resolutions that called to end systematic abuses.

Israeli soldiers stands guard as Palestinians wearing face masks enter the Ibrahimi Mosque to perform Friday prayers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the West Bank city of Hebron on June 26, 2020. (Photo: Mosab Shawer/APA Images)
ISRAELI SOLDIERS STANDS GUARD AS PALESTINIANS WEARING FACE MASKS ENTER THE IBRAHIMI MOSQUE TO PERFORM FRIDAY PRAYERS IN THE MIDST OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN THE WEST BANK CITY OF HEBRON ON JUNE 26, 2020. (PHOTO: MOSAB SHAWER/APA IMAGES)

In Hebron, where I live, collective punishment dictates our lives. The city is divided in half, with Israeli forces controlling the Old City. Their harsh policies of segregation interfere with our daily lives to such a depth that I cannot even walk on the streets, as the army does not allow Palestinians to use certain roads, only Israeli settlers. Inside of the quarter of the Hebron where I live we face serious pressure to abandon our homes with Israeli settlers seeking to increase control over our properties. What’s more, during this pandemic, Israeli soldiers and settlers and were caught on video spitting on the doors of homes of Palestinians in Hebron. 

One of the reasons for the spread of the pandemic in Hebron, the current epicenter for the virus in the West Bank, is the lack of Palestinian health enforcement in the part of the city under direct Israeli military control, known as H2. Palestinian security forces and officials are not allowed to enter the area and this places a barrier in the Palestinian government’s ability to enforce quarantine measures and inform the public about preventative measures. The virus ramped up in the West Bank after Palestinian workers entered Israel to work via crossings outside of the checkpoints where health teams conduct checks for symptoms.

The Palestinian people’s message is always that we are fighting for justice, freedom, and the establishment of a state on our land. We have always rejected proposals to make us disenfranchised residents of enclaves, or deny us the right to live in our homeland. The governments and people of the world bear a moral and human responsibility, so that the situation does not explode.

If the occupying power is not ready to apply international law, namely United Nations resolutions to establish a Palestinian state, it must be ready to establish a democratic single state for all of citizens without distinction in rights by race, religion, gender, or skin color.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Annexation is a war crime

Gaza: One million Palestinians face food shortages

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Gaza Strip has been under strict Nazi siege since mid-2007.

Around one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza face food shortages due to Nazi continued blockade and slashed global funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugeesa welfare organisation said on Saturday.

In a statement on the World Refugee Day, Jamal al Khoudary, chairman of the Popular Committee to End Gaza’s Seige, said “a genuine decline” in support from donors has had “serious repercussions on the Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and other Arab states.”

He said the US’ decision to halt funds, estimated to be around $360 million annually, for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) two years ago had severely impacted the agency’s operations.

Moreover, he said, Israel’s blockade on Gaza since 2006 has resulted in skyrocketing levels of poverty and unemployment in the besieged area.

World Refugee Day is marked globally on June 20 and focuses on increasing awareness about the suffering of millions of refugees across the world.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human Rights, UNComments Off on Gaza: One million Palestinians face food shortages

Jewish settlers set up mobile homes in West Bank to expand illegal outposts

The Nazi Jewish settlers at first build shacks and set up tents to later become stone structures and full-fledged settlements.

Nazi occupation Jewish settlers set up mobile homes in northern occupied West Bank village of AlSawiyeh in an effort to expand their illegal outposts in the area.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Nazi settlement activities in the north of the West Bank, said on Wednesday that the Nazi Jewish settlers proceeded to illegally build new settlement homes in Al Sawiyeh land as if they are getting ready to expand area settlement outposts.

He said the illegal settlement of Rahalim has been growing at the expense of the local Palestinian population and has taken over several hilltops.

The Nazi Jewish settlers at first, he said, build shacks and set up tents to later become stone structures and full-fledged settlements.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Jewish settlers set up mobile homes in West Bank to expand illegal outposts

Nazi warplanes, artillery bomb Gaza Strip

Jun 15,2020

Last months, a collaborator admitted that Israeli intelligence Shen Bet had taught him how to manufacture primitive rockets and tasked him to launch a rocket each time the Israeli army planned to attack targets in Gaza.

Israeli war planes and artilleries fired around ten rockets and projectiles at several areas across the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, including security watchtower.

Local sources in Gaza said that the Israeli war planes targeted several civilian targets, including farms in the east of the Southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Meanwhile, the Israeli tanks attacked a security watchtower in the same city.

Palestinian medical sources said that there were no injuries in the Israeli aggression, but reported at least 37 trauma cases among children and women.

Israeli occupation army claimed that these strikes came following an alleged projectile fired from Gaza towards an illegal Israeli settlement near Gaza.

Last month, a collaborator captured by the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in Gaza said that the Israeli intelligence Shen Bet taught him how to manufacture primitive rockets and tasked him to launch a rocket each time the Israeli army planned to attack targets in Gaza.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi warplanes, artillery bomb Gaza Strip

Nazi regime buries evidence of its racist war crimes

Airbrushing history: Israel buries evidence of its racist war crimes

Zionist secret services exposed attempting to ‘construct a more convenient version’ of history.

Proletarian writers

Israel’s creation in 1948 led directly to the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe): 700,000 people (half the Palestinian population) fled their homes following a wave of brutal ethnic cleansing by zionist gangs. Many of these refugees’ families still hold keys and deeds to their stolen houses and lands.

This article is based on information from an investigative report by Hagar Shezaf, published in Haaretz newspaper on 5 July 2019.

*****

“Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them.”

So begins a document, found in the Yad Yaari archive at the Givat Haviva centre for a shared society in northern Israel. It describes events that took place during the capture of the Upper Galilee village of Safsaf by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in 1948 – the year of the Nakba (‘the Calamity’), when Palestinians were forced to leave their homes en masse as a result of ethnic cleansing operations carried out by the newly-established zionist state.

The document was discovered by historian Tamar Novick four years ago, and it supports widespread and generally accepted allegations that war crimes were committed by the IDF in that year, as well as suggesting that the criminal actions of the IDF’s seventh armoured brigade, long rumoured but always officially denied, were known all along to Israel’s top brass.

Aharon Cohen, a central committee member of the ‘left-wing’ zionist Mapam party, made a note in November 1948 following a briefing given by Israel Galili (former chief of staff of the Haganah zionist paramilitary gang, which went on to become the IDF): “Safsaf 52 men tied with a rope. Dropped into a pit and shot. 10 were killed.” This note of Cohen’s was cited by Israeli historian Benny Morris in his work The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949.

The citation included the note’s place in the Yad Yaari archive, but when Ms Novick sought it out four years ago, the note was nowhere to be found. When she enquired as to its whereabouts, she was told that the ministry of defence had ordered that it be locked away.

Further investigation revealed this to have been part of an operation spearheaded by the MoD to make historic records unavailable – an operation dating from the start of the previous decade.

A systematic process

Among the documents removed from archives are those that record the events of the Nakba. A report from the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research found that the defence ministry’s security department (the Malmab) has been responsible for extra-judicially removing historical documents, and that the documents made unavailable include many that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor.

Additionally, a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz shows that the security department has gone so far as to threaten the directors of archives, and insists that the department’s censorship extends to testimony by IDF personnel regarding the killing of civilians and the demolitions of villages, as well as to records documenting the expulsion of Bedouin tribespeople in the first decade of the establishment of Israel.

The Yad Yaari research and documentation centre’s director, Dudu Amitai, has told of how Malmab staff paid regular visits to the archive between 2009 and 2011. According to Amitai: “Dozens of files, in their entirety, found their way into our vault and were removed from the public catalogue.”

When questioned about the purpose of the operation, former Malmab head Yehiel Horev acknowledged that it was necessary to conceal the truth about the Nakba in order to avoid unrest amongst the Arab population (that is, among the Palestinians still living inside Israel), and admitted that already-published documents are being removed in order to undermine studies on the root causes of the refugee problem.

Among the documents removed is a text written by an IDF officer, who approvingly discusses how Arabs were removed from each village. Researchers found a copy, which had at that time been authorised for publication by the military censor. The text recounts how 70 percent of Palestinians who left during the Nakba did so as a result of Israeli military operations (ie, at gunpoint), listing “direct jewish acts of hostility” as the primary reason for the exodus – something that has always been disputed by the zionist state, which has insisted that ‘Arab leaders’ were responsible for scaring the Palestinian population into leaving their homes.

Another text, also removed by the security department, records interviews with former state actors, including both public and military figures. In one interview, Major General Avraham Tamir recounts how the engineering battalions of Israeli central command demolished abandoned villages to make sure that displaced Palestinians had nowhere to return to.

Among the documents removed from the public catalogue at Yad Yaari are ones that give information on the post-1948 military government. The appendix to a 1958 report by the ministerial committee that oversaw the government of the time explains that reasons for enforcing martial law included restricting Arab citizens’ access to the jobs market and preventing them from rebuilding demolished villages.

The report also details the expulsion of Bedouin, which reduced their numbers from 100,000 to 13,000 in the Negev desert alone. At a time when there is renewed interest in Israel’s founding myths and its various self-exculpatory narratives, such information is not only embarrassing, but profoundly dangerous to the zionist project – a clear motivation for Israel’s secret services to have disallowed access to the file.

According to Israel’s former chief archivist, Tuvia Friling, Malmab has only been authorised to access documents relating to Israel’s nuclear project, but many more documents quite unrelated to that topic have been made inaccessible. In the Yad Tabenkin archives, the security department has even removed records on jewish settlements built in occupied Palestinian territories. Indeed, Friling states that this censorship was one of the factors leading to his resignation in 2004.

Yahiel Horev, the former head of the Malmab who began the archive-cleansing project, was interviewed by Haaretz. He also emphasised the need to avoid unrest amongst the Palestinian population. When questioned about the rationale for hiding documents that have already been published, he admitted that when censorship is thus imposed by the Israeli state, “the published work [and hence criticism of the zionist entity] is weakened, because the author doesn’t have the [original] document”.

As the former chief archivist at Israel’s state archives, Yaacov Lozowick, aptly expressed it in a report written upon his retirement: “This is an attempt to hide part of the historical truth in order to construct a more convenient version.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi regime buries evidence of its racist war crimes

The oligarch behind the world holocaust forum attended by presidents and kings

As imperialists shed fake tears over the jewish holocaust, they continue to weaponise alleged ‘antisemitism’ to silence all criticism.

Proletarian writers

A Palestinian family carries their belongings towards the remains of their destroyed home, hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes on Gaza, 5 August 2014. Gaza is often called the largest open air prison in the world. It is sometimes called a ghetto.

The following article is reproduced from the If Americans Knew website, with thanks.

*****

At least 45 world leaders responded to a summons to attend the World Holocaust Forum in Israel to ‘fight antisemitism’. The event was organised by a Russian-Israeli oligarch who considers support for Palestinian human rights ‘antisemitic‘. He is promoting an Orwellian programme that would criminalise ‘intolerance’ and require re-education programmes for anyone who strays beyond accepted views …

In an astounding gathering, at least 45 presidents, kings, premiers and world leaders gathered last week in Israel to pay obeisance to the jewish state and “fight antisemitism”. Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper called it “an airlift of presidents, prime ministers and royalty from around the world”.

In the midst of the impeachment proceedings, US vice-president Mike Pence and congressional leader Nancy Pelosi flew to Israel to pay tribute. (The US gives Israel over $10m per day.)

The opulent two-day event was entitled ‘Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism’. The presidents and kings gathered in response to a summons to commemorate the holocaust – a catastrophic event that ended 75 years ago through the deaths of thousands of their countries’ soldiers – and to “fight antisemitism”.

It is unlikely that any of them mentioned the current and ongoing genocidal programme against Palestinians, or that the alleged ‘antisemitism’ they are fighting often consists of support for Palestinian human rights. It is also doubtful that the millions of non-jews who died during the holocaust played much of a role in the festivities.

The event was brainchild of Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, a Russian-Israeli oligarch known for unscrupulous business dealings who made his money during the massive plunder of Russian resources that left many ordinary Russian citizens in misery. Kantor is the president of the European Jewish Congress and multiple other international entities. This is his fifth holocaust forum.

A major component of the alleged ‘antisemitism’ that Kantor is fighting is opposition to Israel’s human rights abuses and apartheid-like system of discrimination.

Kantor is a Russian-Israeli billionaire dedicated to Israel. He has stated that the creation of the state of Israel is the “biggest achievement” of diaspora Jewry, and believes that all jews must work to “strengthen our beloved state”.

In 2008, Kantor enunciated his core belief: “The reality of today requires that European jews care not only about the preservation and security of Israel, but also the way it is treated by the rest of the world. This must be the leading priority of the European diaspora.”

Kantor heads up and sometimes even originated a network of pro-Israel international entities.

In addition to being president of the European Jewish Congress, he is founder and president of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, founder and chairman of the European Jewish Fund, originator and president of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, cofounder and president of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, vice-president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, a member of the International Board of Hillel, and the former president of the Russian Jewish Congress, to name just some of his affiliations.

His ability to accomplish all this stems from his enormous wealth. In addition to being an “international philanthropist”, as he identifies himself, Kantor is an international businessman with $4bn at his disposal. He has been accused of unscrupulous business dealings and financial fraud.

Like other Russian oligarchs, Kantor made his fortune in the first years of Russia’s “new capitalism” – sometimes called “gangster capitalism” – when, under the guise of ‘privatisation’, Russia’s economy was massively looted, causing ruin to many Russian citizens who saw their life savings vanish, sometimes in a matter of weeks.

Kantor’s father, a former Red Army soldier, reportedly served prison time for “speculation and embezzlement of state property on a large scale, taking bribes and forgery”. Kantor was among the many individuals in the Russian jewish community who flourished; many – perhaps most – of Russia’s oligarchs have ties to Israel.

Kantor is known for a variety of international activities. Along with notorious oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Kantor is said to have been a “sponsor of the ‘Orange revolution’ in Ukraine in 2005, which led to the cancellation of the initial results of the presidential election”. Berezovsky later bragged that he had funded the revolution. In 2006, Kantor received an award from Ukraine’s new president for “distinguished services” to the country.

Stamping out ‘antisemitism’ and ‘intolerance’

Kantor has been involved in a global campaign to embed a new, Israel-centric definition of antisemitism in European governments and institutions. The EJC says that the definition of antisemitism must be “clarified” because “the new form of antisemitism” supposedly “emanates from pro-Palestinians”. EJC is the regional affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, one of whose main missions is to advocate for Israel.

Kantor says that BDS, the international boycott of Israel over its violent human rights abuses, is “antisemitic”. (BDS works to “uphold the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity”.) According to Kantor: “Anti-zionism [opposition to Israel’s systemic discrimination and violence] is almost always just a mask for hatred of jews and jewish collectivity and is just the most modern manifestation of the oldest hatred.”

Thus, the opposition of Kantor and his organisations to ‘antisemitism’ often consists of censoring information that exposes Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

Kantor advocates that governments punish antisemites as harshly as they punish terrorists. He has been working to convince European governments to adopt a bizarre 13-page programme of “concrete and enforceable obligations that ensure tolerance and stamp out intolerance”.

The Orwellian programme, entitled ‘National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance‘ (revised version here), would restrict freedom of expression, impose re-education programmes, enact surveillance structures, and institute criminal penalties for ‘antisemitism’ and other ‘intolerance’. Expressing views specified as impermissible would be “regarded as criminal offenses punishable as aggravated crimes”.

The document proposes a deeply authoritarian structure controlling multiple aspects of society to coerce ‘tolerance’, and anyone who doesn’t get with the programme would be taken care of, eg, “Juveniles convicted of committing crimes listed in paragraph (a) will be required to undergo a rehabilitation programme conducive to a culture of tolerance.” Big Brother in the form of a “National Tolerance Monitoring Commission” would ensure that no-one says or does anything that the commission determines is ‘intolerant’.

The programme is being promoted by Kantor’s European Centre for Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), and may be on the way to becoming a reality. Kantor has secured former UK prime minister Tony Blair as the ECTR chairman and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy as a member.

According to its website, ECTR has formed a joint task force with the European Council to work on implementing the programme throughout Europe. The European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, defines the EU’s overall political direction and priorities.

‘Global pandemic’

Kantor recently said that antisemitism is now a “global pandemic” and that the “crisis of antisemitism is a slippery slope to global catastrophe”. He warns that jews could “disappear completely as a people from Europe”, and raises the alarm about what he describes as “mass killing at synagogues”.

Media reports on the new EJC campaign similarly emphasise recent tragic attacks on jews, and reference the assaults in the cities of MonseyJersey CityHallePoway and Pittsburgh.

These terrifying attacks reportedly killed a combined total of 14 jews.

News reports on the alleged perpetrators of the assaults, who were of diverse races, indicate a variety of motivations. One attacker said he had been inspired by a 2019 assault on two New Zealand mosques that had killed 51 muslims.

Previous fatal shootings have also occurred at other religious sites. The largest number of fatalities in the US may have been at a christian church, where 26 worshipers were killed in 2017.

While Kantor and the EJC claim the existence of massive antisemitism, jewish Americans are reportedly the wealthiest group in the US, and this also appears to be the case for jews worldwide.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed almost 10,000 Palestinian men, women, and children since 2000 and injured tens of thousands; Palestinian resistance forces have killed approximately 1,200 Israelis (details here).

Such disproportion is not new.

Twenty-five years ago, an Israeli author wrote: “In the last 40 years the number of non-jews killed by jews is by far greater than the number of the jews killed by non-jews.”

Many jews around the world, including in Israel itself, have long strenuously opposed Israeli violence. According to Kantor and his cohort, these individuals are also “antisemitic”.

Fifth world holocaust forum

The new campaign came just before the fifth World Holocaust Forum, held in Israel on 23 January, co-sponsored by the president of Israel. The forums are another one of Kantor’s many projects.

Over 45 heads of state and world leaders promised to attend the event, including the presidents of France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia, the kings of Spain and Belgium, and Britain’s Prince Charles. Vice-president Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also attended. [Her Congressional delegation included Eliot Engel (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).]

The event was held at Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust complex, a vast, sprawling institution with dozens of Israeli flags and tree-studded walkways leading to exhibits, archives, monuments, sculptures, and memorials.

The event website proclaims that the holocaust is “the most horrific tragedy in human history” and states that “a new wave of antisemitism unseen since World War 2 poses an existential threat to European jewry”.

According to the Jerusalem Post, among the forum’s features were speeches by select heads of state, a Holocaust survivor, video clips, and “musical interludes performed by an orchestra and an international choir”. The event was live-streamed and concluded with the Israeli national anthem.

Yad Vashem is in Jerusalem, where there is evidence all around – for any with eyes to see – of another genocidal programme, one that has been going on since the one commemorated by Yad Vashem ended.

An historian calls this one the “Palestinian holocaust” and describes it: a land was “occupied, emptied of its people, its physical and cultural landmarks obliterated, its destruction hailed as a miraculous act of God, all done according to a premeditated plan, meticulously executed, internationally supported, and still maintained today”.

Yad Vashem overlooks one of the obliterated landmarks emptied of its people: an almost empty field where the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin once stood.

On 9 April 1948, zionist forces systematically exterminated 110 men, women, and children as part of a plan to rid Palestine of its muslim and christian population in order to make way for the jewish state. This was one of 16 such zionist massacres that took place before the official start of Israel’s founding war of ethnic cleansing, and over a month before a single Arab army joined the conflict. In contrast to Yad Vashem’s monuments and memorials, Deir Yassin has no marker.

More recent evidence of the ongoing oppression can be found in the Issawiya neighborhood of Jerusalem, where heavily-armed Israeli police have raided over 500 Palestinian homes and arrested more than 700 residents since May, apprehending children as young as five. Israeli forces shot dead a 21-year-old at close range and have injured over 300 people of all ages. Soldiers beat and humiliate residents at will. One resident says the area “has turned into a ghetto”. (Another such ghetto is Gaza, where Israeli forces last week killed three young men.)

Not far from Issawiyah is Israel’s mammoth apartheid wall, confiscating additional Palestinian land and helping to imprison over two million people. In 2002, Israeli media reported that Israeli generals were studying how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto for use in Israel’s next campaign against Palestinians.

The Holocaust Forum programme states that the world leaders were “invited to lay a wreath at the base of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument created by world-renowned jewish sculptor and artist Nathan Rappaport”.

Perhaps some of the world leaders could also visit the unmarked site of Deir Yassin, and lay a wreath on one of its crumbling graves. And then go to Israel’s wall and echo a famous demand from a previous head of state: “Tear down this wall.”

And maybe a future social media campaign could focus on ending all genocides, injustice and oppression.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, Health, PoliticsComments Off on The oligarch behind the world holocaust forum attended by presidents and kings


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