Archive | September 8th, 2020

Permission to Narrate a Pandemic In Palestine

Palestinian artist spends quarantine creating cartoons on staying safe  during pandemic | Middle East Eye

Bram Wispelwey, Rania Muhareb, and Mads Gilbert

Dr. Wispelwey is a co-founder of Health for Palestine and medical director of 1for3. He teaches at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at Harvard Medical School. Ms. Muhareb is a legal researcher and advocacy officer with the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. She holds an LLM in international human rights and humanitarian law. Dr. Gilbert has since 1981 worked with solidarity medicine in Lebanon and occupied Palestine, and co-founded NORWAC (The Norwegian Aid Committee). He is a specialist in anesthesiology, senior consultant at the University Hospital of North Norway, and professor emeritus at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. He has authored the books Eyes in Gaza (2009) and Night in Gaza’(2014).

The extension of academic censorship on Palestine to the medical world is, despite its pervasiveness, relatively unknown. In the latest iteration, a letter highlighting the Gaza Strip’s vulnerability to the Covid-19 pandemic was removed from The Lancet’s website after a swift pressure campaign. While the immediate effects were minimal—despite its short shelf-life, the piece is among the top 5% most discussed research publications—the chilling effect of such campaigns on writers and editors is profound and enduring. This commentary outlines the struggle to make space for discussion and academic inquiry into the health impacts of the ongoing suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people.

As Palestinians marked Land Day on March 30, The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals, silently removed from its website a commentary that was published three days prior. At just over 400 words, “Structural violence in the era of a new pandemic: the case of the Gaza Strip,” draws on the deep historical and political forces that have rendered the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip particularly susceptible to an impending Covid-19 outbreak. Mirroring numerous warnings that continue to be published elsewhere, including a statement by 20 Palestinian, Israeli, and international health and human rights organizations, our commentary highlights the impact of pandemics on “populations burdened by poverty, military occupation, discrimination, and institutionalised oppression.” Its critical tone is consistent with other Lancet commentaries targeting various national and global responses to Covid-19.

While hoping the swift removal was just a technical error, our experience working on Palestine made us suspect otherwise. A hint came via the elated tweet of a Canadian endocrinologist who had been involved in prior efforts to censor scholarship connecting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses to Palestinian health outcomes. The next day we understood the impetus behind the commentary’s sudden disappearance: a message had been circulated to the scientific community in the United States (and beyond) calling—ironically, given the hostility to similar calls directed at Israel—for a boycott of The Lancet for publishing the piece.

To understand The Lancet editorial staff’s swift decision to remove the commentary, we need to go back to 2014. At the height of Israel’s large-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip, The Lancet published “An open letter for the people in Gaza,” setting off an aggressive years-long campaign with demands that both the open letter and the editor-in-chief be removed. Neither occurred after a thorough review by The Lancet ombudsman. The controversy culminated, however, with five 2017 Lancet Series papers designed to “outline Israel’s achievements in health and health care.” While the papers commemorated one of the world’s most efficient healthcare systems, missing was any discussion of Israel’s institutionalized oppression over the Palestinian people that leaves millions without the ability to develop or even access similarly exemplary healthcare. Indeed, the authors of the introductory piece of the series decided to “not comprehensively address historical or political issues, except when directly pertaining to health,” as if there were any other comparably important factors determining the stark health (and other) inequities between Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian inhabitants of the region.

The aftermath of the publication of the 2014 letter explains how The Lancet, a high-profile outlet courageously and almost uniquely willing to cover the political and historical forces impacting Palestinian health, came to publish an entire edition—perhaps the most prominent example of “healthwashing”—that sweeps these defining issues under the rug. “An open letter for the people in Gaza” denounced Israel’s 2014 military assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, highlighting the widespread killing and severe injury of Palestinian civilians, including children. Noted was the extraordinary loss of infrastructure, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless, and the dramatic impacts of Israel’s ever-tightening blockade on access to essential medicines, food, and potable water. The authors criticized the complicity of third states, as well as that of Israeli health professionals who failed to speak out against this massacre.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human Rights0 Comments

How the Nazi regime won over the Zionist Arabs?

A man takes a selfie in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality on Rabin Square, which was lit up with the flag of United Arab Emirates after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, on August 13, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

A man takes a selfie in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality on Rabin Square, which was lit up with the flag of United Arab Emirates after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, on August 13, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Bibi’s digital warriors take on Arabia: How Israel won over the Gulf states

Israel has been using a web of social media accounts to produce a more favorable image among Arabs in the Gulf. With the UAE agreement, it seems these efforts are bearing fruit.

By Katie Wachsberger 

On August 13, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic deal to normalize relations between the two countries. Under the agreement, which was brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump, Israel will suspend its annexation of parts of the West Bank. On Twitter, Trump called the agreement a “HUGE breakthrough,” and a “historic peace agreement between our two GREAT friends.”

The peace deal is the culmination of years of warming ties between Israel and the Gulf (or Khaleej in Arabic) countries, buttressed by a demonstrable shift in Arab public opinion. While the deal immediately came under attack for disregarding Palestinians’ aspirations for self-determination, it was also welcomed enthusiastically by many social media influencers from around the GCC.

Over the past decade, as the rise of Iran’s regional influence has been countered by the growing power of the Gulf states, Israel has been using a web of Arabic-speaking social media accounts to spread pro-Israel propaganda in order to win over the hearts and minds of Khaleejis and neutralize the perceived threat of the Islamic Republic. Now, with a peace deal on the horizon, it seems those efforts have borne fruit.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has historically played a significant role in Israel’s relations with the Khaleej. Initiated in the 1990s following the Oslo Accords, annulled in the early 2000s during the Second Intifada (partly as a result of mass popular protests in some Khaleeji countries), recalled in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and covertly re-established throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Netanyahu’s government has recently been successful in warming ties with the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council — specifically the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and to a lesser extent, Oman and Qatar.

Already in the late 2000s, the Israeli government began utilizing social media to spread hasbara, its national propaganda efforts. Since 2008, for example, Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has been promoting short “informational” videos on YouTube. Two years later, it established virtual Egyptian and Jordanian embassies on Twitter, “dedicated to strengthening diplomatic relations, economic growth and friendship” between Israel and the two nations. These accounts focus exclusively on social, cultural, technological, and economic content, steering clear of sensitive political issues such as Palestinian rights, which are known to foster discontent among the Jordanian and Egyptian populations.

Similar tactics and social media tools have since been adopted by internal security entities, attempting to influence the Palestinian population’s negative perception of military occupation to one of partnership and closeness.

In the years following his return to the premiership in 2009, Netanyahu hired a group of young, ex-soldiers from the IDF’s communications unit, “Dover Tzahal” — including his eldest son, Yair — to lead the administration’s efforts in creating a strong social media presence. Equipped with an elite unit of tech-savvy digital warriors, the Israeli government was ready to take on the Arab blogosphere and begin producing a more favorable image of Israel.

Following the Arab Spring, the Israeli government established several more Arabic-language accounts — such as “Israel in Arabic” on Twitter and “Israel Speaks Arabic” on Facebook, which has nearly two million followers from the region — reaching beyond Israel’s formal allies. Officials such as IDF Spokesperson Avichay Adraee, the prime minister’s Arabic media spokesperson Ofir Gendleman, and even Netanyahu himself, began posting in Arabic between 2011 and 2012.

These accounts work together, retweeting one another’s posts, sharing information and followers, and engaging extensively with people throughout the region. They post discussions and polls, videos that directly address the people of the region, and references to Arab culture and Islam. They portray Israel as a progressive, tolerant, resourceful, and peaceful nation. Over the past several years they have come to focus more on technological advancement in realms that interest the Arab world, such as in agritech and medicine. There is also a significant focus on women’s rights and gender representation in the Israeli government and military, creating an image that marginalizes the violence of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The seemingly benign facade of Israel’s cultural, technological, and social achievements can be intriguing for some Arabic-speaking social media users, many of whom have had little to no insight into the nature of Israeli society.

President Donald Trump, joined by White House senior staff members, delivers a statement announcing the agreement of full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

President Donald Trump, joined by White House senior staff members, delivers a statement announcing the agreement of full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Joyce N. Boghosian/White House)

“Sometimes it’s just about curiosity,” explained Kareem Abdulaziz, a Lebanese consultant born and raised in the UAE who has been following Netanyahu’s Arabic account on Twitter for several years. “My whole life I’ve heard these shadowy explanations of what Israel has done to the Arabs, how Israel is the devil, why we should never talk to Israelis. The whole topic is so taboo that suddenly the opportunity to peak into the black box is impossible to resist.”

Another popular tool is the portrayal of Arabic culture in different Israeli contexts, seeking to foster familiarity and the appearance of sympathy and interest among Israelis toward Arabic music, language, and art. This also includes the manipulation of the Mizrahi narrative, erasing the establishment’s history of oppressing Jews who arrived to Israel from Middle Eastern and Muslim countries due to their Arabic identity and culture, while focusing exclusively on the fraternity and shared experiences of Mizrahi Jews and Arabs in the region. 

“They think that I will be more sympathetic to Israel if I see that many Israelis are actually from an Arab background or from Islamic countries,” explained Mansour Benani, a student at Penn State originally from Rabat who follows several official Israeli Arabic accounts on Twitter. “But the truth is this can actually fuel antisemitic tendencies toward Jewish communities that have remained [in Arab and Muslim countries]. We have several such communities in Morocco who often try to disassociate themselves from Zionism.”

By demonstrating the Zionist sentiments of Jews who remained in these countries — which Benani claims is commonly believed among Moroccan residents to be the reason for their discrimination in Muslim countries following the 1967 war — these accounts further alienate Arab audiences. “They are saying, there is no difference between Judaism and Israel, and that even Jews from the Middle East have typically supported Israel. It justifies disdain for the Jews, which often originates from the rejection of Israel’s violent treatment of Palestinians.”

As Israel tightens its control over Palestinians in the occupied territories, and as Arab leaders’ strategic interests increasingly marginalize the occupation’s significance, some of these social media accounts have increasingly adopted overtly political messaging. This increasingly aggressive discourse attacks the Palestinians’ handling of the conflict, claims they have repeatedly rejected any peace initiative offered by Israel, portrays resistance as illegitimate terrorism, and exaggerates Palestinian ties with Iran and Qatar. This more recent addition to the accounts’ repertoire — specifically as it pertains to the portrayal of Iran as a malicious regional influencer — signifies shifting attention toward the Gulf.

As such, the government established the “Israel in the Khaleej” account in 2013. The Khaleeji social and cultural environment has been immensely impacted by social media’s facilitation of exposure to global communities, discourse, and trends, all of which led to the account’s rapid growth. Israel in the Khaleej is deemed by Israeli officials one of the MFA’s most successful social media outreach campaigns, and was branded a “virtual embassy” in 2018. “We can see more and more of our followers who credit our content with having changed their perceptions and attitudes towards Israel,” claims the account’s founder, Yonatan Gonen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents files on Iran's nuclear program in a press conference at the Kirya government headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents files on Iran’s nuclear program in a press conference at the Kirya government headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in engagement on all of Israel’s official Arabic accounts’ with the Gulf. The Israeli government’s Twitter and YouTube channels have published videos of Gulf citizens speaking favorably about Israel, news of visits by GCC nationals, official Khaleeji statements regarding normalization of relations (which are often neglected in mainstream Gulf media), and messages from Israeli citizens to different Gulf states.

The political posts also often touch on shared strategic concerns or interests, specifically as they pertain to Khaleeji foreign policy, such as combating Iran’s nuclear advancements and curbing the spread of Islamic extremism (often equated with Palestinian resistance movements). They also highlight Netanyahu’s access to and cooperation with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which is attractive to many Gulfies who favor Trump’s aggressive policies regarding Iran.

While the perceived Iranian threat was the catalyst and leading cause of Israel’s diplomatic ambitions in the Gulf, it is not the only uniting factor. In 2011, the Arab Spring brought Israel and the Gulf countries closer, as uprisings demonstrated the power of popular sentiments and their ability to topple authoritarian regimes. 

The protests were equally threatening to Israel’s government — primarily interested in maintaining the status quo in which regional threats are neutralized — and to the Gulf regimes, which found the prospects of mass political movements to be both directly and indirectly threatening. The shared perceived threat of Islamist movements developing out of popular resistance is utilized by these official accounts to portray Palestinian national aspirations as dangerous, corrupt, and radical.

As such, posts often attack radical Islamic ideology, drawing a distinction between so-called “good Arabs” and “bad Arabs,” the former referring to compliant and productive citizens, while the latter to supporters of Islamist movements or “terror” organizations (including Palestinian militant groups). 

In one Tweet, for example, Israel’s army spokesperson Adraee asks followers how they would want to be remembered: as “respected and successful” like Egyptian football star Mohammed Salah and Syrian sports journalist Mustafa Agha, or “as the cowardly terrorist Ahmad Jarrar,” who was accused of killing an Israeli settler and was shot dead by the Israeli army. These statements echo a common discourse heard in the UAE and Saudi Arabic, which expresses caution regarding radical Islamist trends.

Additionally, these accounts criticize Palestinian resistance, demonize efforts to fight against the occupation, and play into authoritarian regimes’ fear of popular movements that challenge the political status quo or support radical ideological currents. Using hashtags such as “Hamas is your Nakba” and “Not Awda (return) but Fawda (chaos),” official Israeli accounts portray uprisings and protests as violent and goaded by Hamas or supported by Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in the East Room of the White House to unveil details of the Trump administration’s Middle East plan. (Shealah Craighead/White House)

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in the East Room of the White House to unveil details of the Trump administration’s Middle East plan. (Shealah Craighead/White House)

In the late 2010s, prominent international Jewish organizations aligned with Netanyahu’s pro-occupation policies also jumped on the bandwagon. The American Jewish Committee’s Arabic Twitter account, created less than a year ago, now enjoys nearly 60,000 followers. Generally less political in their messaging than the Israeli accounts, the popularity of these organizations in many Arab countries demonstrates a growing interest in Judaism. It also highlights their role as a bridge for Arab nations interested in developing ties with Israel. The AJC, for example, has been a significant facilitator of relations between the UAE and Israel, using its alleged political neutrality as to connect UAE officials with Zionist communities that support the current Israeli administration in the West and in Israel.

Alongside official accounts, individual supporters of Israel’s pro-occupation policies who post in Arabic have also amassed significant following on Twitter. Edy Cohen, an academic specializing in the Arab world and former advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office, has a significant media presence with over 260,000 followers on Twitter. Cohen has become an extremely popular source of information about Israeli politics, and his persona has become a topic of criticism and debate among Arabic social media users region-wide. 

Guy Maayan, a Likud member and journalist with the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation who regulalry posts in Arabic on his Twitter account, is especially vocal on Palestinian issues. He features Palestinians who reject the prospects of living under Palestinian sovereignty, while defending the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied territories. Mordechai Kedar, a right-wing academic and commentator, uses his account almost exclusively for engaging with the Palestinian issue, often claiming that popular support for Palestinian rights is an emotional trend that lacks logic and reason. 

These independent accounts cooperate with official Israeli social media posts by retweeting and spreading explicitly political content. Many of them reach out to Khaleeji audiences, emphasizing issues that unite Israeli and Gulf political interests. There has also been an increase in posts about alleged animosity that Palestinians harbor toward the Khaleej, claiming that Palestinians have been irresponsible and ungrateful, manipulating the region (and especially the Gulf) through their claims of being victims of occupation. Such statements are often reposted enthusiastically by the Israeli accounts mentioned above. 

Accordingly, there has been a steady increase of pro-Israel accounts in the GCC, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which simultaneously praise Israeli achievements and policies while condemning Palestinian efforts to resist the occupation. The arguments used by pro-Zionist Arabic social media accounts to justify their dwindling support for Palestine include Israel’s success in technological advancements and combatting terror, the corrupt and impotent nature of Palestinian resistance, and the Palestinians’ failure to accept previous peace agreements. 

These classic hasbara arguments demonstrate the effectiveness of Israel’s outreach campaigns in the region and their success in adapting these tactics to the Arabic-speaking target audience. Such accounts, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, use hashtags such as “Palestine is not my problem” or “yes to normalization,” and have run various campaigns over recent months that rally anti-Palestinian sentiments among Gulf citizens. This is done by showing Palestinians living in luxury or highlighting ordinary aspects of Palestinian life in an attempt to discredit claims of oppression and injustice. 

Nadim Nashif, the executive director of 7amleh, The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, explained that the rise of Israel’s Arabic social media presence seeks to show the high quality of life in Israel and the opportunities that await the Arab world once relations are completely normalized. “This phenomenon goes to show that relations with the Arab world are becoming stronger and that interest in the Palestinian cause is decreasing,” explained Nashif.

Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal seen upon his arrival at the Muqata'a Compound during an official visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 4, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal seen upon his arrival at the Muqata’a Compound during an official visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 4, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Indeed, this anti-Palestinian rhetoric is gradually taking hold in popular discourse outside of social media, with more Khaleejis posting uninhibitedly about their support for Israel as well as their wariness of the conflict with the Palestinians. Known popularly as “Arab Zionists,” they are gaining more legitimacy to speak freely about their pro-Israel views.

These voices are not exempt from internal criticism, and in some countries support for engaging with Israel still leads to ostracization (as is the case in Kuwait, for example). But in countries where official engagement with Israel is becoming increasingly visible, such as in the UAE, popular discourse is following suit. 

“This is not only because of the fact that people here maintain a herd mentality, supporting what the government supports,” explained a social entrepreneur from Dubai who asked to remain anonymous given the critical nature of his statements regarding Emirati social norms, which could hurt his reputation among colleagues and peers. “It’s also because this has become an accepted way of speaking among Emiratis. Supporting Israel is no longer considered strange, it has become something you hear from time to time.” Indeed, as the interviewee suggested, the increased popularity of pro-Israel discourse can be traced to tendencies among citizens to adopt their government’s stances, as well as the official decision to remove education about the Palestinian issue from school curricula. Social media allows these sentiments to spread and become normalized.

Additionally, the Qatar embargo (enforced by the Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Egyptian bloc in 2017 as a rejection of Qatari support for Islamic movements) has influenced the decline of pro-Palestine awareness and discourse, as Al-Jazeera (currently blocked in the UAE and Saudi Arabic) used to present the harsh reality of the Israeli occupation in a way that is no longer widely available to Khaleejis. 

As such, few prominent Emirati intellectuals who vocally reject normalization with Israel are often subjected to criticism by other UAE nationals, facing resistance when advocating for a solution to the Palestinian issue before the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Expressing resistance to normalization is becoming increasingly dangerous in countries like the UAE, where the government may detain or even torture citizens who criticize authorities. Since the agreement was announced on Thursday, UAE authorities have made it clear that rejecting the government’s new policy on Israel will bring trouble to objectors. The Gulf nations have restrictions on residents’ ability to critique political entities and decisions, which has allowed pro-Israel discourse among Khaleejis to grow with little scrutiny.

As a result, Palestinian social media users are posting more frequently about Khaleeji relations with Israel, condemning their neighbors for abandoning the cause. “This normalization between Netanyahu and the Gulf has been attempted for years, and one of the methods used is incitement against Palestinians and fueling of tensions between Palestinians and Gulfies,” explained Sulaiman Khatib, a Palestinian social activist and co-founder of Combatants for Peace, an anti-occupation organization founded by ex- Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian armed fighters. “They definitely use Gulf voices to play up this conflict. However, I do trust the people of the Gulf that they will stand, as they have historically, with Palestine at the end of the day.”

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration in Rabin Square against the government's annexation plan, Tel Aviv, June 6, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration in Rabin Square against the government’s annexation plan, Tel Aviv, June 6, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

As the pro-occupation camp achieves success in fostering popular support for normalization with Israel, Israeli voices that reject the status quo and struggle to end the occupation have been slow to catch up in the struggle for influence over the Arab blogosphere, and have yet to establish a presence in Khaleeji discourse on both official and popular levels. Peace organizations and people-to-people initiatives in Israel have translated few of their materials to Arabic, let alone created an active presence in Arabic conventional media or social media.

“Khaleeji nationals have no idea that there are Israelis and Palestinians working together,” asserted Aisha al-Ghamdi, a Riyadh-based advocate for Saudi women’s rights. “People are convinced that showing interest in Israel inherently requires them to abandon the Palestinian cause, or to look down on Palestinians. This is the case on the web, it is very black and white.”

“The Israeli left has focused its outreach in the U.S. and Europe for several reasons,” explains Achiya Schatz, former director of communications at Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of veteran IDF soldiers working to expose the everyday reality of the occupation. “The Palestinians are doing advocacy work in the Arab world, they know the playing field much better than us, and can make their own strategic decisions about what is needed to influence public opinion there. Secondly, the lack of diplomatic ties has made such a task challenging and seemingly irrelevant. Thirdly, the authoritarian nature of the Gulf regimes create obvious challenges for us, a camp that focuses on the importance of human rights.”

It is true that public sentiment and policies in Europe and the U.S. have historically had the most significant influence on the conflict in terms of foreign intervention. However, the incentive of commercial and political cooperation with the GCC is becoming increasingly desirable for Israeli leadership. Netanyahu’s administration has been adamantly striving toward partnership with Khaleeji nations, and has now proven that the realization of these ties is not conditional on a peace agreement with the Palestinians. These nations’ diplomatic decisions have an increasingly significant effect on the conflict’s development, and will continue to play a role determining the nature of any future agreement with the Palestinians, as the normalization of ties becomes a reality.

Meanwhile, the anti-occupation camp is beginning to understand that in order to convince Khaleejis that ties with Israel should not come at the expense of Palestinian rights, it will have to start speaking directly to them. In June, three former Israeli diplomats published an article in The National, expressing their appreciation for Emirati Ambassador to the U.S., Youssef Al Otaiba, after he penned an article in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth, warning that annexation will “be a serious setback for relations with the Arab world.”

Similarly, a new Twitter account, “A New Voice from Israel,” recently published a short video featuring former members of Knesset speaking in Arabic and rejecting annexation and occupation. This video received widespread attention from young Khaleeji social media users, many of whom expressed surprise at the fact that some Israelis are more interested in realizing the establishment of a Palestinian state than Arab leaders. “It is unfortunate to find Arab voices denouncing normalization under the pretext of cooperation, while we see Israeli voices inside Israel who refuse to annex the West Bank and stand against Zionist racism and promote the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” tweeted Talal Alkhanfar from Kuwait.

These initiatives are not only young, they are at a disadvantage because they lack the support of official institutions in Israel and the GCC. Yet they engage the silent majority of young Khaleejis who are interested in the potential benefits of relations with Israel and Israelis while remaining adamantly opposed to the violation of Palestinians’ basic human rights. If fostered and expanded, such efforts have the potential to engage many voices in the Gulf looking to move forward and create a truly interconnected region that offers opportunities to all of its residents.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE0 Comments

The ‘Israel’-U.S.-Saudi alliance will likely end in disaster

By +972 Magazine 

By supporting the Saudi kingdom with military aid and intelligence cooperation, while ignoring the regime’s human rights abuses and support for terror organizations, Israel and the U.S. risk repeating the Cold War era’s worst mistakes.

By Eitay Mack (translated by Ofer Neiman and Tal Haran)

US president Donald Turmp and King Salman sign a joint agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, May 20, 2017. (Shealah Craighead, the White House)

US president Donald Turmp and King Salman sign a joint agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, May 20, 2017. (Shealah Craighead, White House)

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been close partners with the American political and economic elite for several decades. In recent years, their parallel relationships with the U.S. have become a close triangular relationship. Israel and Saudi Arabia promote their mutual interests in the Middle East and, it seems, maintain intelligence ties, the details of which remain secret. Even if Israel is not selling weapons to Saudi Arabia or providing intelligence support, there is no doubt that Israel has given the United States the green light to massively arm the Saudi kingdom.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

Dramatic political changes have been reflected in recent reports of ongoing communication between Israel and Saudi Arabia: calls by senior Israeli officials for full normalization of relations between the two counties; repeated statements by Netanyahu that Israel has shared interests with the Gulf States in the fight against Iran and ISIS, especially with Saudi Arabia, which sees Israel as a partner, not an enemy; and an exceptional interview that Commander-in-Chief of the army Gadi Eizenkott gave to a Saudi news site, in which he praised the partnership between Israel and Saudi Arabia, at least in their joint struggle against Iran, and announced that Israel is willing “to share intelligence with the moderate Arab states.”

Israel is looking reap three major benefits from its relationship with Saudi Arabia: the creation of a united, regional front against Iran and its proxies, influence over events in Syria, and reduced support for the Palestinian independence struggle. Israel knows that one of the Palestinians’ last cards is normalization. As in the case of African states—which severed official diplomatic ties with Israel in 1973 but continued to purchase Israeli weapons exports, directly and indirectly—the question of normalization with the Arab nations has increasingly become a symbolic rather than practical question. Today, a good number of Arab countries maintain commercial, diplomatic, and even security-oriented ties with Israel behind the scenes.

A doomed triangular affair

Netanyahu and Trump applauded the announcement by the Saudi crown prince and defense minister, Mohammed Bin Salman, that Ayatollah Khomeini is “the new Hitler in the Middle East,” as well as Salman’s remarks against Hezbollah. However, it the Israel-Saudi-U.S. triangle has largely failed to achieve its goals: Iraq is quickly becoming an Iranian proxy; the Assad regime, supported by Iran and Russia, is winning the Syrian civil war, which will strengthen Hezbollah, whose soldiers will soon return to Lebanon as heroes; similar to America and Saudi Arabia’s support for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Syrian militias armed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to fight the Assad regime and ISIS won’t part with their weapons anytime soon, and chances are they will be used against Israel in the future; even if the ISIS caliphate physically disappears, it will remain alive as an ideology amongst its militants and supporters; and the Palestinian question is unlikely to disappear from the international agenda any time soon.  A declaration of full normalization of relations with Israel by an Arab regime prior to the resolution of the Palestinian issue would constitute political suicide.

The failure to realize these goals stems not only from the complicated reality in the Middle East, but also from the fact that the tripartite partnership between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States is inherently incapable of achieving them.

First, it is impossible to ignore American and Israeli contributions to radicalization in the Middle East: the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon; and especially the decades-long U.S. support for Arab dictatorships (for example, of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, prior to 1989). These regimes squandered their countries resources, leaving their citizens in severe poverty or far behind a narrow caste of ruling elites, and carried out harsh internal repression.

Second, it is impossible to combat the process of radicalization in Muslim countries and communities around the world while ignoring the tremendous Saudi financial support for terrorist organizations and an extremist, ultra-conservative form of Islam, from Europe to Indonesia. For years, Saudi Arabia support for Al-Qaeda has been known, all while the regime claimed that at most it was private Saudi citizens who were funding the terror organization and others like it. Even if this is true, it does not explain why the dictatorial Saudi regime, which monitors its citizens so closely, has failed to halt the financial flow. Recent reports revealed that the British government is keeping hidden a report on the Saudi contribution to radicalization to avoid damaging economic and strategic relations between the two states.

Last June, Saudi Arabia declared its boycott of the Qatari dictatorship because of the latter’s relations with Iran and its support for terrorism. The boycott failed. Kuwait and Oman refused to join it from the outset, and Qatar – refusing to give up its relations with Iran – strengthened its ties with Turkey. It now seems that Saudi Arabia is facing an additional military defeat in its war in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who boast of Iranian support, though clearly this military link is not as tight as Iran’s link to Hezbollah.

The war in Yemen has now entered its third year. Saudi Arabia has been unable to defeat the Houthis, despite purchasing sophisticated weapons systems worth billions of dollars from the U.S. and Britain. The murderous war does entail war crimes on both sides, but most of have been committed by the coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia. The Sunni coalition, armed by the U.S. and Europe, attacks and bombs hospitals and civilians, lays siege to the state’s ports, and blocks the transfer of basic humanitarian aid. According to partial UN data, so far at least 10,000 civilians have been killed and tens of thousands wounded. Millions lack badly needed medical services, access to clean water, and minimal nutrition. About 700,000 cases of cholera have been documented.

Saudi Arabia invests a fortune in the war in Yemen each day, even though its economy is faltering. Low oil prices can no longer subsidize the profligate habits of thousands of members of the Saudi royal family or contain the corruption that has infested every echelon of the Saudi regime and bureaucracy. Thanks to support from the U.S. and Britain, permanent members of the UN Security Council, the international community is paralyzed from doing anything to stop the war in Yemen. No political solution to this crisis is in sight, though the war clearly has no military solution. The Saudi crown-prince, Bin Salman, knows that ending this war without a Saudi military victory could be the end of his personal career; he has led this war since being appointed as Minister of Defense in 2015.

Instead of facing this reality, Netanyahu and the Trump administration have fallen in love with the Saudi crown-prince, and are especially enamored with his expressed hatred of Iran and his proposed initiatives to modernize the state – such as allowing women to drive, diversifying the economy and reducing its dependence on oil profits, and a campaign to fight corruption that included removing political rivals, present and future.

We seem to be watching the Saudi spin-off series of prior episodes of military and political aid handed by the U.S., Britain and Israel to the Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – who was also marketed as progressive and pro-Western to justify such support. During the Shah’s corrupt rule, tens of thousands were tortured, thousands were executed or disappeared, and protesters were shot. Severe political oppression was one of the main reasons for Ayatollahs’ rise to power in Iran in 1979.

As for the Saudi dictatorship, in addition to its responsibility for the murderous war in Yemen and its support for international terrorist organizations, the kingdom exercises extremely harsh political and gender oppression. The Saudi regime is an absolute monarchy. The law bans political parties. The state has never held elections, except for a few municipal elections. Its security forces routinely carry out arbitrary torture and arrests. Women need the approval of their male guardian to go to work, travel in and out of the country, open a bank account, and undergo medical treatment. The courts of law are not independent. Corruption is rampant.

US President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

U.S. President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu and the Trump administration, then, disingenuously distinguish between the Iranian dictatorship (which they fight and vehemently denounce) and the Saudi dictatorship (whose misdeeds the U.S. and Israel are willing to live with, or at least ignore). Both Iran and Saudi Arabia interfere with other states and are linked to militias and terrorist groups. History repeats itself.

The distinction between Iran and Saudi Arabia resembles the neo-conservative American distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes during the Cold War. According to that doctrine, as articulated by one of its prominent supporters — Ambassador to the UN under the Reagan administration, Jeane Kirkpatrick — authoritarian regimes were less oppressive and severe and were thus open to democratic change, whereas totalitarian regimes, with their total control of all aspects of life, presented no possibility of change at all. In fact, the doctrine was meant to categorize the U.S.-backed murderous dictatorships (such as the Latin American juntas) as authoritarian, and thus justify U.S. support, while distinguishing them from the totalitarian regimes of the USSR and its satellites.

Netanyahu and the Israeli security establishment have not learned from past mistakes. They did not not try to limit the U.S. arming of Saudi Arabia, nor have they lifted finger to halt Saudi support for radicalization and worldwide terrorism. Quite the contrary, they have offered political backing and legitimization to the Saudi crown-prince and his dangerous adventures throughout the Middle East.

Theirs is a mistaken gamble. Considering the failed Saudi campaign in Yemen, in addition to Iran’s successful involvement in Syria and Iraq, the faltering Saudi economy, and internal power struggles at the top of the Saudi regime, chances are that Prince Bin Salman will soon fall. The Saudi royal family now faces a harsh test, perhaps the harshest ever. Saudi Arabia might have skipped the Arab Spring, but it is not at all certain to survive Prince Bin Salman’s arrogant behavior.

In the meantime, Israeli media mostly repeats messages issued by the Prime Minister’s office about the warming relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the other Gulf states. Only rarely do they report on the war in Yemen, Saudi corruption or Saudi contributions to terrorist organizations. The Israeli public, unaware of such information, is mostly glad to place some more obstacles before the Palestinians’ struggle for independence; it might wake up only once missiles begin flying from Saudi Arabia towards Eilat. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this this before.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, Saudi Arabia0 Comments

Palestinians are a side note in the Zionist UAE-Nazi political charade

Palestinians are a side note in the UAE-Israel political charade

With Arab regimes seeing Israel as an ally in their power struggles, Palestinians should counter normalization by finally cutting the cord on the Oslo process.

By Dana El Kurd 

A man waves a United Arab Emirates flag outside the Israeli Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem, August 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man waves a United Arab Emirates flag outside the Israeli Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, August 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Since the announcement of the U.S.-brokered “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago, state officials in all three countries have portrayed it as an unprecedented step toward bringing “peace” to the region.

The agreement stipulates that the UAE will recognize and normalize relations with Israel — the first Arab state to formally do so since Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in 1994 — in exchange for the “suspension” of Israeli annexation plans in the occupied West Bank. This means that the two countries will open up trade, facilitate cultural ties, and increase military and security coordination with each other.

Despite the showmanship around the accord, these relations are actually not new; there has long been under-the-table normalization, to various degrees, between many Arab states and Israel. However, this act of official normalization, which breaks the ranks of the Arab League, threatens not only to sideline the Palestinian cause but also to have severe repercussions for Arab societies across the region.

Until now, the act of official, public normalization has always hinged upon progress in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For instance, it was only after the 1993 Oslo Accords that Arab regimes began opening up trade offices and other relations with Israeli institutions, under the pretext that they were encouraging the peace process. When the negotiations had clearly failed by the time of the Second Intifada in 2000, many Arab states withdrew their normalizing overtures. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, reiterated Arab commitments to the peace process by asserting that normalization would be contingent on the creation of a Palestinian state.

A man takes a selfie in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality on Rabin Square, which was lit up with the flag of United Arab Emirates after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, on August 13, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

A man takes a selfie in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality on Rabin Square, which was lit up with the flag of United Arab Emirates after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, on August 13, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Today, that policy has been thrown out the window. Despite being tangential to the conflict and never having been at war with Israel, the UAE has gone against the standard set by the Arab League by delivering normalization without any meaningful concessions from Israel. It essentially frittered away one of the few remaining bargaining chips left on the Arab side and paved the way for other countries in its axis — including, potentially, Bahrain and Sudan — to do the same.

Israel can claim to the international community that it has given up something important by “suspending” annexation (even as Netanyahu insists the opposite to his constituents). But this assertion is laughable: annexation is not a date on the calendar but an ongoing process that continues unfettered, de facto if not de jure. So what exactly have the Emiratis achieved?

A convergence of anti-democratic forces

In reality, the question of Palestinian rights and self-determination is a side note in this political charade and was never the objective of either party.

The connotation of the accord’s title, named after the prophet Abraham, attempts to portray the agreement as a landmark resolution to a wider religious conflict rather than a cynical political deal. This, in part, is a message designed to appeal to the Trump administration’s Evangelical supporters in the run-up to the 2020 election, and to suggest that the UAE has some historical legitimacy for its actions, which it in fact sorely lacks. Netanyahu, for his part, could claim a foreign policy victory in front of his domestic audience, who have been embittered by his mishandling of the economy and the coronavirus crisis.

President Donald Trump meets with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo/Shealah Craighead)

President Donald Trump meets with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo/Shealah Craighead)

For the Emiratis, the accord is a means of scoring points with the United States in its competition with other Gulf regimes, all of whom are jockeying for the favor of the Trump administration — especially as Trump’s probability of winning re-election in November gets slimmer by the day. This, in turn, feeds into the UAE’s principal foreign policy goal of establishing itself as a regional power, to project its influence and autocratic vision beyond its borders.

The UAE has positioned itself in the past decade as a counterrevolutionary force, intent on preventing the spirit of the Arab Spring from taking hold in major Arab countries. A key fear of such mass mobilization — in addition to threatening the authoritarian political order — is that it could lead to a rise of political Islamist groups. The Gulf’s tensions with Iran and Turkey, including against their involvement in the affairs of Arab states, fuels this alarm. This has led the Emiratis to intervene in a number of states experiencing political turmoil, such as Sudan and Yemen, to aid their regimes in repressing protestors.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

In this context, the UAE is seeking allies that can share expertise, sell surveillance tools, and ramp up its ability to carry out repression domestically and regionally — and it has found that ally in Israel. Like the UAE, Israel is averse to democracy in the region because Arab publics have demonstrated their ability to push for transformative change, while fearing that Islamist groups that might fill ensuing political vacuums would bolster one of its major enemies, Hamas, through material and political support.

Moreover, Arab publics have demonstrated a consistent commitment to the Palestinian cause — something their authoritarian leaders pay lip-service to but, in practice, have routinely undermined. The most recent polling data of 2017-2018 from the Arab Opinion Index, conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (where I am a researcher), shows that a full 87 percent of Arab respondents, from across 12 different countries, do not agree to their governments normalizing with Israel. A vast majority (77 percent) also believe the Palestinian cause is the cause of all Arabs, and are committed to Palestinian self-determination and ending the Israeli occupation.

Demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, July 29, 2011. (Ahmed Abd El-Fatah/Wikimedia)

Demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, July 29, 2011. (Ahmed Abd El-Fatah/Wikimedia)

That public opposition has surfaced following the UAE’s announcement. In spite of government pressure on citizens not to speak out about the agreement, and in spite of the ongoing economic and health crises that plague many countries, activists from Tunisia to Bahrain have spoken out against the agreement, with Oman’s civil society vocally rejecting their government’s message of congratulations to the UAE.

Activists in all the Gulf countries are also organizing a united campaign against normalization, even as the political environment becomes ever more restrictive; they have begun by holding brainstorming sessions and broadcasting educational panels on the threats of normalization, and are in the process of developing a consistent strategy for the entire Gulf.

Cut the cord on Oslo

These Arab activists know that the UAE-Israel Accord, which is predicated on sidelining Palestinians, is not a meaningful step for peace in the region. Israel still has to contend with the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel whom they continue to oppress, kill, and occupy. “Peace” initiatives with irrelevant despots does nothing to resolve Israel’s fundamental problem at home.

Palestinians protest against the deal between Israel and the UAE in the village of Haris, near the West Bank city of Nablus, August 14, 2020. ( Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Palestinians protest against the deal between Israel and the UAE in the village of Haris, near the West Bank city of Nablus, August 14, 2020. ( Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

As for Palestinians, this news is indeed a setback. Palestinians are more marginalized today, and their allies in Arab publics more repressed, than ever before — and with increasing Israeli-Gulf cooperation, that repression will only increase.

Signs of criminalization of pro-Palestinian activism, a phenomenon witnessed primarily in Europe and the United States, are now appearing in the region. For instance, the UAE government sent messages to Emirati WhatsApp numbers threatening action against anyone who criticizes the accord, and has publicly reiterated that commitment on Twitter by likening criticism of the agreement to “antisemitism,” which Emirati citizens and residents are instructed to report to the authorities.

Yet perhaps this moment is an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to finally cut the cord on the Oslo process, to re-imagine a future outside the bounds of the nonviable two-state solution. And perhaps it is an opportunity for Arab allies to reengage more seriously and innovatively with the Palestinian issue, as both a moral and strategic imperative.

The machinations of the Trump administration and its authoritarian allies present a possibility to reengage with Palestinian society, mobilize Palestinians, and re-energize the Palestine Liberation Organization — not as a stagnant body tangential to the caretaker PA government, but as a full liberation movement. Palestinians cannot expect authoritarian regimes completely unrepresentative of their people and their interests — including their own — to do anything but normalize with their oppressors. They must instead take this as a chance to upend the status quo altogether.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, UAE0 Comments

Venezuela moves PDVSA HQ to Moscow

Photo of Venezuela moves PDVSA HQ to Moscow

Gloria La Riva

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To protect Venezuela’s oil from the “armed robbery being carried out against Venezuela’s wealth,” Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez announced that the European offices of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the state-owned oil and natural gas company,  will be moved from Lisbon to Moscow.

In a joint press conference in Moscow on March 1, together with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, both spoke of the countries’ growing economic and trade relations, including agreements between the oil giant PDVSA of Venezuela and Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft. Russia will assist Venezuela in the production of medicines inside the country, as well as supply medicines that are purchased.

The continued U.S. attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro was also presented, and Russia warned of U.S. arms being funneled to opposition groups inside Venezuela.

Economic agreements were already signed last December, but U.S. and European sanctions have accelerated closer ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s attempt to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for presidential elections in Venezuela was vetoed by Russia and China. South Africa also voted no. A resolution by Russia backing Venezuela as the primary party to initiate or accept any international aid, also failed.

Nevertheless, U.S. military plans continue. Both Lavrov and Rodríguez gave details.

Lavrov warned that the U.S. is arming paramilitary groups, saying, “These plans are very alarming. The U.S. openly talks about this. The information we have shows that in the upcoming future, the United States is planning to buy in one of these European countries, light arms, mortars, anti-aircraft portable weapons and then send it close to Venezuela, with the help of the air cargo company which is absolutely loyal to the regime friendly with Washington.

Vice-president Rodríguez spoke of the same U.S. strategy that was used in Syria. “As far as the operation against Venezuela, a very experienced person is heading up that operation.

“Mr. Abrams has already been involved in this kind of activity. There are certain steps aimed at establishing some illegal military units …  the U.S. supports these extremist groups, illegal terrorist groups and uses them to destabilize peace.

“It will not happen in Venezuela. Our independence is the connection between the army and the people. Our people and our army are together, they will protect the territorial integrity and independence of our country.”

Foreign minister Lavrov affirmed Russia’s support with Venezuela, describing it as “our longstanding partner. We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of the legitimate government of Venezuela in its effort to defend its independence and sovereignty … Russia will continue to help Venezuelan authorities in solving social and economic problems by supplying humanitarian aid.”

In addition to moving PDVSA’s Europe site to Russia, Venezuela will pursue its legal claims to CITGO properties that were seized by the U.S. government.

In early April high-level government commissions from both countries will meet in Moscow to discuss major works, including military and high technology.

Today, Sunday, the Russian Senate’s president Valentina Matviyenko presented Rodríguez with the Senate’s declaration warning the United States that any intervention in Venezuela will be seen as an “act of aggression.”

“Everything is pointing to the threat of military intervention. Russia has done all it can and will continue doing so in the future to prevent the development of such an occurrence,” said Matviyenko.

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Venezuela leads the way in hurricane relief efforts

Jamier Sale

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Barbuda: Damage caused by Irma

After Hurricane Harvey left thousands of homes underwater, Venezuela pledged $5 million to aid in relief through its oil company Citgo as well as providing free fuel for relief workers in the area.

First with Harvey and now with Irma, Venezuela has demonstrated the true meaning of solidarity with its response to the devastation left by the two historic tropical storms. The tiny island of Barbuda lay in ruins after enduring the Category 5 hurricane with winds over 175 mph. It is reported that St. Martin is 95 percent destroyed, and more damage is expected on other islands as Irma continues its path of destruction.

Within 24 hours of speaking with officials from Barbuda, Venezuela began delivering urgently needed medical supplies, beds, and water to the hard-hit Caribbean island. They also provided two military cargo planes to be used to get supplies from neighboring countries.

As this is being written, Venezuela stands as the first, and to-date only, nation to provide this vital support needed for those in the wake of the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Cuba, with its legendary medical aid to many countries during disasters, is itself hunkering down as the monstrous hurricane approaches the island.

This spirit of solidarity that has been shown by Venezuela is a reflection of the humanitarian values of the Bolivarian Revolution. At the same time as the reactionary opposition is engaged in an economic war against the Venezuelan government and masses, with the support of the U.S. government, humanitarian support with no strings attached for those in need remains a high priority.

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New court hearing for political prisoner: “Mumia’s life is in our hands!”

Photo of New court hearing for political prisoner: “Mumia’s life is in our hands!”

Timour Kamran

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The decades-long struggle to free falsely imprisoned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took another step forward Jan. 17 as a Philadelphia judge heard the first of a new round of arguments focusing on the corrupt and unconstitutional handling of Mumia’s case by the Philadelphia Police Department and District Attorney’s office.

The hearing today was the outcome of a 2017 decision by Judge Leon Tucker to order the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to release all files relating to the involvement of Ronald Castile in prosecuting Mumia’s case. Castile presided over Mumia’s original prosecution in 1982 but then, in a practice which has since been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in a case known as Williams vs. Pennsylvania, ruled on Mumia’s appeals as Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice.

The Williams vs. Pennsylvania case resulted in a new series of trials for the defendant, Terrance Williams, because like in Mumia’s case Castile first prosecuted Williams as District Attorney and then ruled on his appeals as Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice. If Mumia’s legal team can prove Castile’s involvement in Mumia’s prosecution—which, given the prominence of Mumia’s case and the fact that Castile was District Attorney at the time should be simple if the DA’s office releases all the documents relating to Castile’s involvement in the case—Mumia, too, could finally get the fair hearing he was denied in his 1982 frame-up trial.

Mumia’s supporters demonstrated in the snow outside of Philadelphia’s Center for Criminal Justice the morning of the court appearance to raise consciousness about Mumia’s unfair treatment, and to let the state know that they will not rest until Mumia walks free. Demonstrators chanted and passed out flyers outside of the courthouse, and planned to enter the courthouse and pack the courtroom in solidarity with Mumia.

Early on, rumors started circulating that the hearing had been postponed due to a lack of prosecutors. Organizers with the movement to free Mumia had received a call last night that also claimed the hearing had been postponed. After about a half an hour, a police officer even came outside and informed the crowd that the hearing had been postponed “a long time ago” and that they might as well go home. This information turned out to be absolutely false—just another example in a long history of the Philadelphia City Government’s corrupt and dishonest handling of Mumia’s case. The appointment went ahead and began at around nine o’clock in the morning.

The hearing lasted around an hour, and in an impressive show of solidarity so many of Mumia’s supporters made it into the courtroom that many had to wait outside. The result of the hearing was a continuance order—the Judge decided that more time was necessary to allow the newly-elected administration of District Attorney Larry Krasner to formulate its policy with regards to cases impacted by the Williams decision. Krasner is a long-time movement lawyer who gained prominence defending protesters targeted by authorities for repression. Activists are demanding that Krasner stay true to his progressive record and tell the truth about the framing of Mumia.

The next hearing will be some time in March of 2018, and similar support from the movement to free Mumia and to free all political prisoners can be expected.

After the hearing concluded, demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse again and heard from speakers who are deeply involved in the movement to free Mumia, including Ramona Africa—one of the only two survivors of the despicable 1985 bombing of the MOVE organization’s home by the Philadelphia Police Department which resulted in the death of eleven, including five children, and which burned down an entire city block in a Black neighborhood leaving over 250 people homeless. She told the crowd:

“Mumia is strong, determined, and knows as long as he stays strong, they will not defeat him. Mumia’s life is not in the hands of this system and those running it. Mumia’s life is in our hands, the people’s hands—and we are not going to step back, shut up, bow down, or any of that. We are standing strong with our brother Mumia, and we aren’t going to stop at all until our brother comes home and then the fight doesn’t stop there. Because too many of our freedom fighters are in prison, accused of ridiculous crimes like robbery and murder when it is this system that is guilty of those crimes. They call our MOVE sisters and brothers, they call Mumia, they call Leonard Peltier murderers. This is the government that dropped a bomb and murdered babies and burned babies alive along with men, women, our dogs and cats—so who is the real murderer? But not one of them is sitting in prison next to our sisters and brothers. Not one of them sat on death row next to Mumia for thirty days. So we cannot be tricked by their games, the labels and names that they want to put on the people, our soldiers, our revolutionaries. We know who the real criminals are.”

The United States makes up about 4% of the world’s population, but holds 22% of the world’s prisoners—a disproportionately large percentage of whom are Black and Latino. The fight to free Mumia is about more than just one man—it is a fight to dismantle once and for all the racist prison and policing system that exists in the United States. This struggle will continue in the streets and the courts until Mumia and all political prisoners are free.

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Zionist UAE- Nazi ‘peace’ deal is a dagger aimed at Palestinians

UAE- Israel ‘peace’ deal is a dagger aimed at Palestinians

Joyce Chediac

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 Palestinian protesters in front of the Dome of the Rock in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, Aug.14. They are carrying pictures of a UAE leader with the word “traitor.” Photo: Abdalafo Bassam, bdsmovement.net

On Aug 13, Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to end decades of hostility and normalize relations. The agreement was brokered by, and announced by President Trump, who called it,  “a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure and prosperous Middle East.” 

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not a peace agreement. It is a war pact, and a dagger aimed at Palestinian people. It signifies that the Emirates have formally switched sides, and joined Israel and its Washington backers in the war against all that is progressive in the Middle East, against Iran and most especially against the Palestinian people.

The “peace” was brokered by two U.S. clients over the strong objections of all Palestinian groups. Not one Palestinian group was even consulted. It sets the ugly precedent that to make a Palestinian peace deal, no Palestinian needs to be involved.

There is no doubt that the agreement was timed to bolster the careers of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as against their political rivals. However, much more to the point, the agreement furthers U.S. imperialist domination of the area. This is why Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has given the deal his enthusiastic support.

Israel made no concessions

To sugar coat the pact, the Emirates and Trump claimed that, in exchange for diplomatic relations, they wrested from Israel an agreement that it would postpone its planned annexation of parts of the West Bank. But this was just not the case. Even Israeli Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said that the annexation had been suspended before the normalization deal.  And hours after the agreement was announced, Netanyahu said he remained “committed to annexing parts of the West Bank.”

The UAE made peace with Israel without getting anything, not even a promise, in return. Netanyahu told Israel  HaYom newspaper, “For the first time in a quarter of a century, we are making peace not on the basis of Israeli concessions and withdrawals, as was the case with Egypt and Jordan.” This rubber stamps the Israeli state’s constant aggression against the Palestinian people, and lets it know that it may count on the UAE to raise no objection as it continues its land grabs, bombardments of and persecution of the Palestinians.

We are nobody’s fig leaf’

The entire Palestinian population opposes the normalization of relations. Over the weekend Palestinians demonstrators in East Jerusalem  burned pictures of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crowned prince of Abu Dhabi. On the West Bank hundreds protested, carrying banners calling the agreement “a gift to the Israel occupation” and a “stab in the back.” Israeli soldiers confiscated banners and prevented protesters from raising Palestinian flags.

The Palestine Authority’s immediate response was to issue a statement that its “leadership affirms that the UAE, or any other party, has no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas recalled his envoy from the Emerites and described the deal an “aggression” against the Palestinian people and a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Twitter, “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation. The UAE has come out in the open on its secret dealings/normalization with Israel. Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” 

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem, called the deal “a reward for Israeli occupation and crimes.” Fawzi Barhoum, also from Hamas, added, “Normalization is a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and it serves only the Israeli occupation.”

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Deputy Secretary General Abu Ahmad Fuad called the deal a crime against the Palestinian people and their martyrs, adding “It is the Palestinian people who prevent further annexation of their lands by Israel, not the UAE and its leaders.”

Jewish groups denounce agreement

Progersive Jewish groups have hit the agreement. Stefanie Fox, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “Until Israel is no longer oppressing Palestinians and violating their rights, building illegal settlements, maintaining an apartheid regime and attacking human rights defenders —Trump and Netanyahu’s latest ploy, aided and abetted by the UAE, is nothing more than theatrics.” 

The U.S. Jewish youth group IfNotNow added, “After months of mounting pressure against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s annexation plans from around the world, this treaty–recognizing the informal ties that have existed between Israel and the UAE for years–gives Netanyahu diplomatic cover to say that he stopped formal annexation of the West Bank.” 

How Israeli is being let off the hook

The Palestine Boycott Divest Sanction National Committee, representing Palestinian civil society, explained that the deal was announced as Israel bombed Gaza and attacked Palestinians on the West Bank. “Irrespective of how Netanyahu and Trump decide to handle or spin formal annexation, the UAE claim is a sham: Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and its illegal settlement enterprise are continuing unabated, entrenching its de facto annexation and apartheid regime. This includes, massacresethnic cleansing, especially in Jerusalem, the Naqab and the Jordan Valley; the siege of Gazahome demolitionsdestruction of ancient olive grovesdestruction or appropriation of cultural and archeological heritage; and denial of fundamental rights protected in international law.”

BDS has called for an increased boycott activity against Israel and the results of this agreement. Find more information here.

UAE known for oppression, supporting reactionary groups

The UAE is the first Gulf Arab state to have open ties with Israel, and the third Arab country, following Jordan and Egypt. Other Gulf states are expected to follow suit. 

The regime has an abysmal record on human rights, is known for arbitrary detentions, and for  racism and discrimination against migrant workers, who make up 90 percent of the workforce.

Despite a pledge not to make peace with Israel until Israel make peace with the Palestinians, the regime has had covert relations with Israel for some time, including purchasing billions of dollars worth of Israeli security and military equipment from  2007 to 2015.

The UAE is part of the U.S.-Saudi coalition conducting the criminal war against the people of Yemen. It, and other Gulf regimes, have supported reactionary, divisive and disruptive forces in Libya, Syria and Iraq. They claim that the many millions of Shia Moslems in the Middle East, especially those espousing worker rights or national sovereignty are “agents of Iran,” and that Iran is the “greatest danger” to the area, not Israel.

Openly switching to the pro-Israel and pro-imperialist side will give the UAE better access to U.S. intelligence and military hardware to support its military interventions and pursue its sectarian dominance in the region. It gives the U.S. more leverage against Iran. This is why Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s lead official on Iran, called the pact a “nightmare” for Iran.

Joe Biden praises agreement

By signing this deal with Israel, the UAE has certainly helped both Trump and Netanyahu to boost their faltering political careers by claiming the accord as a diplomatic coup, and as a success of their “Deal of the Century.” This crass attempt to impose unilateral, pro-Israel conditions on the Palestinian people has been vehemently opposed by grass roots organizations internationally.

But this is not just a partisan effort to get votes. Getting an Arab country to openly ally with Israel advances U.S. imperialism’s overall strategic interests in the Middle East, tightening its grip there. This is why Joe Biden, with the disclaimer of opposing annexation, has hailed the accord as “a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East,” calling the UAE’s public recognization of the State of Israel “a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship.”

Imperialism’s strategic interests advanced

This agreement lines up Washington’s clients in that area on the same side, openly coordinating against the Palestinian people, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and all seeking workers rights, self-determination and sovereignty in this oil rich and strategic area. It’s right there in the agreement: “Israel and the United Arab Emirates will join with the United States to launch a Strategic Agenda for the Middle East to expand diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation.  Along with the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability through diplomatic engagement, increased economic integration, and closer security coordination.”

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Trump and Trudeau: More in common than not

Photo of Trump and Trudeau: More in common than not

Dave Havranek

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently met with President Donald Trump for a highly publicized joint press conference in Washington, D.C. While the media went to great lengths to present the two as rival representatives of two conflicting political ideologies, the truth is that Trump and Trudeau have a lot more in common than they would publicly admit.

Trudeau has become a poster boy for liberals both in the United States and Canada while Trump represents the most vile aspects of conservatism. But anyone who hoped for a strong statement from Trudeau denouncing Trump was disappointed. While some media outlets tried to exaggerate a chance photo where Trudeau seemed to give Trump an incredulous look, the meeting was actually friendly and warm. This should come as no surprise to anyone who realize the bedrock that both liberalism and conservatism are built upon.

Two heads of the same coin

Canada is the United States’ second biggest trade partner in the world, trading $2 billion worth of goods a day, with fossil fuels being the biggest export into the United States. Keeping this money flowing to corporations certainly outweighs importance over any difference the leaders may have on refugees or identity politics. Even issues where it seems they have stark differences, Trudeau has a much muddier record than his fans like to admit.

Similar to unpopular pipeline projects in the United States, Trudeau just approved new pipelines last fall to be built in Canada. Like President Trump, he justifies this by saying it is needed for jobs and the economy (as if green energy projects the world is in dire need of would not do the same).

The Trans Mountain pipeline he approved will tremendously increase the destructive and dangerous process of removing crude oil from oil sands in the area. The Tsleil-Waututh nation says this project threatens their very survival.

Trudeau promised in his election campaign that the new liberal government would respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people. Indigenous leaders are upset that he is not delivering on that promise.

The new government has been in office over a year, and besides photo ops and press opportunities, very little has been done for the First Nations of Canada. There is still no plan in place to make the vast changes needed to respect Indigenous sovereignty. The RCMP, Canada’s federal police, continue to harass and oppress indigenous communities.

Broken promises

This of course was one of many of Trudeau’s broken promises from his campaign trail. He made a promise that Canada would have a new election system by the 2019 election which would allow a more fair and democratic process. After being elected he openly reversed his decision.

Trudeau himself has recently come under fire from Canada’s ethics watchdog group who questioned him on recent controversies concerning cash-for-access fundraisers his campaign held and an investigation into a private island holiday he took over the New Year holiday.

Trudeau also promised tax breaks for the working class while running for Prime Minister. While the second to lowest income bracket did drop from 22 percent to 20.5 percent, this was actually wiped out by higher payroll taxes which ultimately increased taxes this section of the population pays. The lowest tax bracket got hit the hardest, with no decrease at all and still being burdened with the higher payroll taxes. In fact Trudeau’s new government has eliminated many tax breaks working families need such as Children’s Fitness Tax, Education Tax Credit, Textbook Tax Credit and many more.

Other pledges were to invest $125 billion into sustainable infrastructure and repeal what Trudeau called “problematic elements” of Surveillance Bill C-51. As with other promises no plan has yet to be delivered. Defenders of Trudeau are telling people they need to wait for him to come through. But many Americans are familiar with waiting for 8 years under the Obama administration on broken promises that never came to fruition.

While Trudeau has made some gestures towards respecting the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants he does not remain consistent. He continues to sign off on permits exporting military vehicles to arm the government of Saudi Arabia, arguably the most repressive regime on the planet. Women and the LGBTQ community suffer tremendously there while the Saudis use this weaponry to stamp out dissidence and pummel Yemeni civilians, adding to the refugee crisis he appears to have such sympathetic approach too.

It is also worth noting a forgotten factor in this refugee crisis is climate change, which has a huge role played in it by the fossil fuel industry he prioritizes and protects.

Thinking outside the box

Defenders of Trudeau, like defenders of President Obama, would argue, not entirely without cause, that the Prime Minister is unable to unilaterally impose his agenda. But if that is the case then Trudeau ran an election in a system that would ultimately carry out these murderous, unacceptable acts regardless. He now sits on top of that system and unapologetically moves it forward. He absolutely does not deserve any admiration as a people’s champion.

The real heroes are in the streets organizing and putting their bodies on the line against this repressive system. If we want to truly move towards justice, we need to be honest about the reality of the Trudeaus and Obamas the system elevates and uses to misdirect progressive people’s energy.

We need to realize that in action, figures like them and Trump have much more in common than they have differences. But if we demand an uncompromising solution that goes well beyond the political system both Trump and Trudeau operate under, we can build a world based on justice, peace, and liberation of all people.

Posted in USA, Canada0 Comments

Why Starbucks wouldn’t let us say ‘Black Lives Matter’

CARTOON: Police not welcome at Starbucks | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Shoshana Jette, Starbucks worker

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Starbucks uniform printed with various imagery of a protest, August 19. Liberation Photo: Shoshana Jette

As both a global pandemic and mass uprisings against police brutality surge across the United States, working class and oppressed people have taken the struggle for justice from the streets into their workplaces. Despite many corporate slogans and advertising campaigns that feign support for these struggles, in reality politicizing the workplace is often met with intense pushback. In Boston, the message from companies like Whole Foods and Starbucks was clear — any gesture shown in support for Black lives on the job, no matter how small, is grounds for punishment.

After the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd and the first rebellion erupted in late May, the focus of my coworkers at Starbucks was immediately directed to the streets. The next day, we received a warning from up the corporate ladder that said showing support for Black Lives Matter would not be tolerated. Their rationale was that displays of politics damage business.

We knew that the movement on the streets was more important than the will of the corporation. The directive backfired. We began talking on the shop floor about issues beyond just the BLM ban. We talked about our safety concerns regarding serving customers during a national pandemic. We talked about how our shop shouldn’t even be open. We talked about how our public image is dishonest, how corporate exploits us, and how Starbucks under-pays farm workers in the global south. Right there on the shop floor, a decision was made: silence would be unacceptable.

Soon, we learned that Starbucks’s decision to ban pro-BLM political expressions had been leaked to the public by an anonymous employee. People around the United States were outraged and began an online demand to “#BoycottStarbucks.” At work the next day, we were informed that the ban on BLM slogans and logos had been reversed. The threat of losing business pushed corporate to give in to our demands.

At a Whole Foods supermarket in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the bosses have been unwilling to concede to similar demands. Workers began wearing “Black Lives Matter” masks on the job. On June 25, 13 of these employees were asked to leave the premises for what management called a “dress code violation.” This directive backfired and workers quickly organized a walk out. At first, seven workers participated, but in a matter of weeks, many more joined in. Just like at my Starbucks, these workers knew that silence would be unacceptable.

This action gained the attention of local media. Emboldened, workers called for a protest outside the store. Other Whole Foods locations organized solidarity protests. Whole Foods retaliated by firing several organizers. As of June 20, the campaign filed a class-action lawsuit for free speech in the workplace, as well as an injunction for publicly supporting the BLM movement while privately helping to crush it. Organizers are also currently seeking donations via gofundme, to allow more shop workers to join the action without risking pay losses.

The campaign at Whole Foods has made me reconsider the real motivation behind my own employer’s decision to reverse their ban on BLM support. More than media backlash, what corporations fear the most is a united workforce. Whole Foods’s resistance to a simple worker demand has galvanized worker opinion against the boss and led to a significant campaign to build worker power, one the company can’t seem to beat so easy. Through conceding to the singular demand of my coworkers early on, Starbucks was able to avoid this issue sparking a broader workers’ campaign like it has in Whole Foods, where labor might win big.

These workers are proving that when we organize, we win — with or without the support of a formal union. In both cases, resistance to simple demands led to stronger campaigns, and deeper workplace unity. Across the country, workers are striking and walking off the job at a greater frequency than they have in decades, with increasingly radical demands.

As the world economy continues to plummet, the ruling class and the corporations they serve are turning to new methods of repression and exploitation — but working and oppressed people in the United States are also learning and adapting. Whether we are in the streets or in our workplaces, we will fight to bring our movement to victory.

Posted in USA0 Comments


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