Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mumia Condition "Grave" - Urgent Call for Demonstrations of Support

Mumia's Condition Grave: Take Action

by Noelle Hanrahan - Prison Radio

April 24th, 2015

Mumia Abu-Jamal was seen today by his wife and his condition has worsened. He, is gravely ill. We are asking everyone to call the prison. Right now. It may be late, but call whenever you get this.

Mumia needs 24 hour care and supervision. He can not be in this condition in general population. In this state he may not be able ask for help, he may lose consciousness. He is too weak. (He was released from the infirmary two days ago).

His condition: He is extremely swollen in his neck, chest, legs, and his skin is worse than ever, with open sores.

He was not in a wheelchair, but can only take baby steps. He is very weak. He was nodding off during the visit. He was not able to eat- he was fed with a spoon. These are symptoms that could be associated with hyper glucose levels, diabetic shock, diabetic coma, and with kidney stress and failure.

Please call these numbers, and any other numbers you have for the Prison and the Governor.


  • Demand that Mumia Abu-Jamal see a doctor ASAP. Right Now!

  • Demand that the prison officials call his wife Wadiya Jamal and his lawyer Bret Grote immediately.
  • Demand that he be seen immediately, and the not be left to go into a diabetic coma.


John Kerestes, Superintendent SCI Mahanoy:
570-773-2158 x8102 | 570-783-2008 Fax | 301 Morea Road, Frackville PA 17932

Tom Wolf, PA Gvrnr:
717-787-2500 | governor@PA.gov  | 508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg PA 17120

John Wetzel, PA DOC:
717-728-4109 | 717-728-4178 Fax | ra-contactdoc@poc.gov | 1920 Technology Pkwy, Mechanicsburg PA 17050

Susan McNaughton, DOC Press secretary
717-728-4025. PA Doc smcnaughton@pa.gov



We need your help right now. Please forward this far and wide.


We need more phone numbers to call inside SCI Mahanoy. If you have one send them to us info@prisonradio.org.

Every call matters. Every action matters. We need to be in the streets. Call your friends, your neighbors. Take action.

freemumia.com

prisonradio.org

bringmumiahome.com


Noelle Hanrahan
Prison Radio

Friday, April 24, 2015

Peerage Protects Punishment in British Lord's Paedophilia Conviction

Crime and Punishment - Holocaust vs. Paedophilia

by Gilad Atzmon

Allison Pearson wrote in The Telegraph two days ago, “As Oskar Groening, the so-called Accountant of Auschwitz, goes on trial at the age of 93 for his complicity in war crimes, the 86-year-old Labour peer Greville Janner is excused prosecution for 22 alleged sexual offences against nine boys in his Leicestershire constituency, from the 1960s to the 1980s, because he is suffering from ‘severe dementia’.”

Pearson is spot on. While Groening is merely a Goy and a German, Lord Janner is a Jew and not just an ordinary Jew, but a quite prominent one. From 1978 to 1984 Lord Janner was the chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an institution that claims to “represent British Jews.”

Lord Janner is also dominant in the field of holocaust education. He is clearly concerned with Jewish suffering but apparently dismissive of the shoah he is accused of inflicting on minor boys at the same time he represented British Jews.


 Apparently there has been long and ongoing massive whitewash operation for Lord Janner, (R)
allowing him to conceal his alleged egregious sex crimes. The BBC revealed recently that as
 early as “1989 a detective sergeant was told not to arrest Mr Janner or search his home.”


Unlike German elder Oskar Groening who stands trial for being an ‘instrument in a mass murder,’ whatever that means; Lord Greville Janner is not going to be arrested or charged. Lord Janner is free and he has not wasted his freedom. Apparently the elder Lord who suffers ‘severe dementia,’ has been active in transferring and concealing his wealth, presumably in case a few of his alleged victims decide they deserve compensation for the shoah he inflicted on them.

The Daily Mail reports that:

“Lord Janner gave his children deeds to his £2m home at height of abuse… the move could slash potential payouts…The transfer happened after police raided his office in the House of Lords”

This British farce knows no end. Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, decided this week not to prosecute Lord Janner. Ms Saunders told the BBC that Lord Janner's dementia was so severe that he could "play no part in a trial." Bizarre: previously, Ms Saunders said that there was enough evidence to prosecute the 86-year-old peer for 22 sex offences but that he was too sick to stand trial and that she had determined that there was "no ongoing risk to the public." 

Alison Saunders is correct. Lord Janner is probably too old to rape young boys. Perhaps he can’t ‘get it up’ while chasing minors at his stage in life. But shouldn’t the same rule apply to Oskar Groening? It is likely that the 93 year old German is also too old to serve as an ‘instrument,’ in a new Jewish holocaust.

Getting Progressively Worse: Defending Hillary

Progressives Line Up to Defend Clinton Corruption

by Chris Floyd - CounterPunch


It’s amusing to see how our staunch progressives — who believe so deeply in a level playing field and fair play, who railed so vociferously against crony capitalism back in Bush-Time — are now twisting themselves in knots to dismiss the stories about that long-festering font of corruption, the Clinton Foundation.

Suddenly, what was once evil and corrosive — peddling elite insider influence for private profit — is just old hat, no big deal, business as usual.


Indeed, Digby, the very avatar of “anguished support” (Tarzie’s deeply apt description of our progressives’ blind self-tethering to a party whose leaders — like the Clintons, like Obama — are so servile to Big Money and war profiteering that they make Dick Nixon look like Diogenes), points us to an “excellent piece” by the ever-overexcited Charles Pierce, esquire (sorry, I mean Charles Pierce of Esquire), which sounds this very theme.

Pierce, wearing his prodigious classical learning lightly, informs us that “every politician since Cato” has engaged in the multimillion-dollar crony fluffing and policy twisting that the Clintons have been practicing for years. This kind of thing — say, taking more than $100 million in “donations” from an uranium magnate who then reaps gargantuan profits when the Clinton-headed State Department greenlights the sale that makes said magnate richer and gives Russia (led by a man that Hillary ignorantly likens to Hitler) control of one-fifth of America’s uranium production capacity — is just “business as usual,” says Pierce. “Every politician” does this, every single one of them — and has done since the high and palmy days of Rome. You may agree or disagree with Professor Pierce — but no one can deny that this is a deeply informed, richly nuanced piece of analysis.

Pierce, renowned in progressive circles for his sharp-edged acumen, here plays the naif — Goober Pyle Goes to Washington. He scratches his head like a simple, honest feller befuddled by the silver-tongued talk of fancy-pants nabobs, and says that, as far he can tell, the detailed stories in the New York Times and Washington Post are just peddling a nebulous conspiracy theory, something about how President Hillary would be beholden to foreign donors or that the couple were pocketing Foundation cash or something. This is not, of course, the import of the stories, which lies in their fresh confirmation and amplification of the Clintons’ particularly successful example of elite influence-peddling. But a simple shrug of the shoulders blows this straw man away, and Pierce is off to the races in his time machine, reliving the false accusations that assailed the Clintons back in Starr-Time.

And of course, many of the allegations assiduously peddled by partisan operators and the respectable press in those days were false, or petty, or pointless. And yes, the Clintons beat the rap (except for Bill’s law license), and ended up with Bill as the most popular politician in America (a rank he still holds, incidentally) and Hillary in the US Senate.

But all of this was a sideshow. The learned Theban of Esquire somehow omits some salient facts from his magical history tour. For even as right-wing agents were needling Clinton about failed land deals and Oval Office canoodling, Clinton was overseeing the deaths of up to half a million innocent children (and many more innocent adults) through the draconian sanctions he imposed on Iraq. This, even though Clinton and US intelligence knew in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction. As I noted back in 2005, confirmation of this fact came from “from none other than the man in charge of the Iraqi WMD program, Saddam’s defecting son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. Kamel’s wealth of information on the destruction of Iraq’s WMD ‘was so extensive it was almost embarassing,’ said UN interrogators.”

This was not secret, by the way; it was reported in Time Magazine and other venues. And it was later confirmed independently by UN inspectors in 1998, who had verified the destruction of 95 percent of Iraq’s WMD arsenal before they were stopped from finishing the job by Bill Clinton’s four-day bombing assault on the country. Clinton justified the attack — which killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of civilians — by pointing to Iraqi “interference” in the almost completed inspections. The Iraqis were being quarrelsome, because they believed America had planted spies among the supposedly neutral inspectors. Clinton sternly denied such lies, and ordered the attack. (Conveniently, it occurred during his impeachment hearings.) However, just one year later, guess what: the UN admitted that, er, America had planted spies among the supposed neutral inspectors: “UNSCOM had directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate.”

Oh well. Bombing raids under false pretenses and the senseless death of half a million children due to sanctions based on “causes” known to be false — I guess that’s just “business as usual” too, eh Charles? As for Hillary’s later vote to OK a whole war based on false pretenses (which, once again, saw the arms inspectors pulled out before they could confirm, again, the fact that Iraq had no WMD) — well, hell, “every politician” since the dawn of time has done the same, ain’t they, Goob?

But none of this matters to our progressives. Nor does Hillary’s bloodthirsty record as Secretary of State, her vital role in the vast War Machine, ever pushing for more aggressive responses, for overturning governments (as in Honduras), for arming dictators (like her “close family friend,” Hosni Mubarak), for targeted assassinations and drone attacks, for allying with extremists to reduce whole nations to chaos (Libya). Who can forget that moment when the mask slipped and Hillary revealed the true, brutal nature of our bipartisan ruling elite — her gleeful exultation after Moamar Gadafy was sodomized and killed: “We came, we saw, he died!”

No, what matters is that Republican “ratfuckers” trumped up charges against the Clintons 20 years ago. (Charges that related only to personal and financial behaviour; the Republicans didn’t care about the bombing and killing; they would’ve liked more of it.) The sleaziness of the Clintons’ enemies absolves them of all blame, apparently. Any evidence of their corruption — financial, legal or moral — no matter what the source, is, ipso facto, nothing more than the noxious fumes of conspiracy.

As with Obama, there seems to be no crime or morally corrupt practice they will not countenance if it is committed by the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party. 

As Tarzie points out, they will “anguish” over their support — both Digby and Pierce preceded their Clinton apologias with stern posts criticizing the drone attack that killed two al Qaeda hostages, and two other Americans said to be al Qaeda members. Digby took issue with the “targeted assassination” program and Pierce pointed out that the drone campaign only creates more enemies for America. But the fact that Hillary Clinton will certainly continue these polices — and will probably intensify them — doesn’t stop the progressive duo from taking up the cudgels for her when someone questions her ethical and financial probity. The values and moral principles that underlie their attacks on the various depredations of the Terror War that Obama has expanded suddenly disappear at the first scent of partisan warfare. Their “ultimate concern” (to use Paul Tillich’s term) is the political victory of the Democratic Party — no matter what crimes and horrors its leaders perpetrate. However anguished their support, nothing will ever induce them to withdraw it.

There will be much, much more in this vein as the long, degrading freak show of the presidential campaign drags on. What our progressives once despised, they will soon defend. (As with Obamacare, which was originally — and rightly — scorned by progressives like Digby as an egregious sell-out to corporate interests and a death-blow to hopes for genuine health care reform, only to become a precious jewel to be adamantly defended against all attacks.) That thousands are dying, that extremism is spreading, that chaos is accelerating, that inequality is growing, that millions of people are suffering horribly from the deliberate choices of their champions does not, in the end, override their tribal instincts. And in this way, they help our rapacious elite insider to keep rat-fucking us all.

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

Europe's Anemic Efforts to Censure Israeli Human Rights Abuses Ultimately Enabling

Europe’s feeble efforts to ‘punish’ Israel

by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

The question of punishing illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory was considered separately in Europe and Israel last week, with only superficial differences in the conclusions reached. Israel’s near half-century occupation is in no immediate danger, either at home or abroad.

Some 16 European foreign ministers sent a letter to the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, calling for the EU to label clearly Israeli settlement products to alert shoppers to their true provenance.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s former finance minister who is widely regarded as a moderate, angrily phoned Mogherini to warn that major European states were calling for a “de facto boycott of Israel”. He described the letter as “a stain” on the EU, adding that Israel’s economy could face “disaster”.

EU foreign ministers were no less persuaded of the punitive nature of their proposal. Labelling settlement goods would, they wrote, be “an important step in the full implementation of EU longstanding policy” and vital to preserving the two-state solution.

In truth, however, the letter simply continues Europe’s feeble and muddle-headed policy in the face of Israel’s intensifying efforts to entrench the occupation.

After years of internal debates, only a small majority of the 27 EU states has been able to agree on the most ineffectual measure imaginable against products made on land and using resources stolen from the occupied Palestinian population.

Labelling might give conscientious consumers useful information to target settlements goods but, in the unlikely event a significant number of shoppers chose to act, it would barely dent Israel’s economy.

In fact, even if the EU went much further and agreed to enforce a fully fledged boycott of the settlements – something far from its current agenda – it would have little more than a psychological impact.

The reason is that, while on the one hand the EU ponders symbolic gestures against the settlements, on the other it actively subsidises the very state that has been expanding the settlements for almost 50 years.

It does so both through a special trade agreement that makes Europe Israel’s largest export market and by handing over large sums of aid annually to the Palestinian Authority, which maintains order in the occupied territories on Israel’s behalf.

European ministers are behaving like deluded parents who believe they can punish a wayward child by docking his pocket money while at the same time letting him buy up the toy store.

The pressing need for Europe to find its backbone was underscored last week when Israel’s supreme court considered the question of boycotts.

Israeli peace and human rights groups had petitioned Israel’s highest court, long considered a lone outpost of liberalism, over a controversial law passed four years ago. It imposes heavy damages on any Israeli individual or organisation that calls for a boycott of either Israel or the settlements.

The Israeli right’s goal in passing the legislation was undisguised: to silence internal critics of the occupation, especially those who back growing international calls for Israel to face BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions. A similar campaign of isolation turned the tide against apartheid South Africa.

However, by a narrow majority, the court supported the law. Several judges described calls for boycott “political terror”, while another renamed the BDS movement “Bigoted, Dishonest, Shameful”.

Observers were particularly surprised that the court refused to make a distinction between boycotting Israel and the settlements. Effectively, the judges kosher-stamped the occupation, equating a non-violent political protest against the settlements with “terror”.

Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now observed that in doing so the court had codified Israel’s “de facto annexation” of the West Bank.

In practice, the ruling will bar Israelis from showing any solidarity with Palestinians living under oppression. As the liberal Haaretz daily noted, lobbying to stop theatre companies and musicians from performing in the large settlement of Ariel, in the heart of the West Bank, is now effectively outlawed with the court’s approval.

Uri Avnery, leader of the small Israeli peace camp Gush Shalom, which for many years has called unsuccessfully on the EU to boycott settlement products, believed the ruling proved the judges were simply “afraid” of the growing power of the right.

Without a supreme court prepared to back basic civil rights like free speech, the Israeli right’s hold is unchallenged. It is shutting down the kind of political spaces that allowed blacks and whites in South Africa to struggle jointly against apartheid.

Israeli commentator Gideon Levy lamented on Sunday:

“We’re about to get our most nationalist government – and there is no one to stop its laws.”

The court’s ruling only highlighted the EU’s shameful cowardice in failing to confront Israel. It is precisely as Israeli political institutions – from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to the judiciary – make common cause behind the settlements that Europe needs to find its voice.

The few Israelis prepared to break out of the domestic consensus and stand up for Palestinian rights to dignity and justice need all the help they can get. Not least they need the solidarity of European governments, who should be joining them in calling for harsh – not paltry – penalties against Israel.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net .

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Understanding Bill C-51 and Its Faux Revised Versions


Bill C-51 submissions, redux 

by Carmen Cheung - BCCLA

 April 22, 2015

This week, the Senate’s Standing Committee on National Security and Defence continues its pre-study of Bill C-51, while an amended version of the Bill proceeds to third reading in the House of Commons.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (“SECU”) made just four amendments to the omnibus bill, despite hearing witness after witness express serious concerns about the Bill and its impact on basic rights and freedoms. We don’t think these amendments even begin to address the fundamental flaws in the Bill, and discuss why in our submissions to the Senate.

These submissions also include our take on some of the comments made by government lawyers at the clause-by-clause review of the Bill at SECU – comments which deal with the scope of the new CSIS powers; accountability in cases where information sharing by government results in harm to individuals (as we saw with Maher Arar); and whether the Federal Court of Canada is being asked to authorize unconstitutional activities by CSIS agents under the proposed warrant regime.

Here’s why SECU’s amendments don’t change our core concerns about Bill C-51:




1. The amended version now explicitly excludes all “advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression” from the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” in the proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (“SCIS Act”). (This is a change from the previous exemption, which was limited only to “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”) While this amendment is welcome, we remain concerned that the broad definition of security will continue to capture expressive activities – as we have said before, activities undermining the “security” of Canada under the proposed SCIS Act would include activities that relate to not just public safety, but to public life in general. Moreover, recent examples show that government already takes a very wide view as to what constitutes a threat to Canada’s security.

2. The amended version contains new language regarding the scope of information sharing under the proposed SCIS Act. Section 6 of the proposed Act, as it was originally tabled in the House of Commons, read as follows:


For greater certainty, nothing in this Act prevents a head, or their delegate, who receives information under subsection 5(1) from, in accordance with the law, using that information, or further disclosing it to any person, for any purpose.

The amended version of Bill C-51 now contains a revised Section 6, which reads as follows:

For greater certainty, the use and further disclosure, other than under this Act, of information that is disclosed under subsection 5(1) is neither authorized nor prohibited by this Act, but must be done in accordance with the law, including any legal requirements, restrictions and prohibitions.

In our view, the revised language is a distinction without a difference. While the formulation has changed, the substance of this clarification is the same: any receiving agency is free to further disseminate information to any person, for any purpose, so long as it is “in accordance with the law.”





The concerns raised by Professors Roach and Forcese with respect to the original Section 6 have equal application here: existing law governing information sharing is thin, and to the extent that it exists in legislation like the Privacy Act, it is “riddled with exceptions and limitations” to its reach. For example, s. 8 of the Privacy Act sets out 14 different exemptions to the general prohibition against disclosure of personal information without the consent of the individual to whom that information relates.

One such exemption allows personal information under the control of a government institution to be disclosed for “any purpose where, in the opinion of the head of the institution, the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure.” The public clearly has a strong interest in ensuring that Canada’s security is protected, but when Canada’s security is conceived of in terms as broad as those set out in the SCIS Act, the range of activities that could serve as justification for massive information sharing is dramatically expanded. And when the aim is to identify threats (as opposed to tracking known threats), there is nothing in this legislation and in the existing privacy legislation to prevent government institutions from either requesting or offering up entire databases for review by any of the other (at present, 17) scheduled institutions.

3. The third amendment recommended by SECU modifies the requirements imposed on airlines to give effect to the new no-fly regime under the proposed Secure Air Travel Act. We’ve set out our concerns on this proposed Act before, so we will not repeat them here. Nothing in this amendment – designed to protect the airlines and to mitigate their concerns about their ability to enforce the no-fly list – addresses our basic questions regarding the efficacy of no-fly regimes in general, or our serious concerns about the procedural infirmities specific to the no-fly scheme proposed in this Bill.

4. The final amendment relates to the proposed “threat disruption” powers for CSIS, and states that Bill C-51 is not giving any “law enforcement” powers to CSIS. This amendment gives us no comfort. “Law enforcement” is not a legal term, and it is unclear what it actually means in this context. Perhaps CSIS may not have the power to “arrest” and “jail,” but as the Department of Justice acknowledged during SECU’s clause-by-clause review, these new disruption powers would permit CSIS to “take measures to interfere with a person’s movement” – in other words, to capture and detain. The Department of Justice also noted that “rendition” or “removal to another state” are not “law enforcement powers,” which means that such practices remain available to CSIS as “threat reduction” measures. As Professors Roach and Forcese observe:

If CSIS wishes to detain or interrogate, it will do so for threat disruption purposes, not “law enforcement.” The government’s peculiar language does precisely nothing to dispel concerns about a system of CSIS “security detention” or “detention for security interrogation.” Given the disturbing experience in other jurisdictions after September 11, 2001, the absence of an express, emphatic bar on detention is alarming.

The range of activities authorized by this “threat reduction” power includes activities we traditionally think of as belonging to the police – detaining and holding individuals; interrogating them while in detention. As a result, we would say that despite the assertion that CSIS is not being granted “law enforcement” powers, it is clear that the new “threat reduction” power is, for all intents and purposes, a policing power.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: the government has simply not made its case for why this Bill is necessary and good for national security. And it has done nothing to dispel any of the concerns raised by us and so many others about its legality and constitutionality. This Bill is fundamentally flawed, and cannot be salvaged by any amendment, let alone these four here.

Read our submissions in their entirety here.

Dispatches from the Active Eastern Ukraine War Zone

From the War Zone of Eastern Ukraine

by Roger Annis - New Cold War


April 21, 2015  

I have just returned from participating in a four-day reporting tour to the city of Donetsk and the countryside that lies between Donetsk and the Russian city of Rostov to the south and east. I was part of a media tour group organized by Europa Objektiv, an initiative of citizens in Russia and Germany working to provide information about the war in eastern Ukraine to writers and journalists.

Residents of ‘October’ district of
Donetsk city still enduring ongoing
shelling by Ukraine army,
April 16, 2015 (Roger Annis)

Our tour group consisted of writers and filmmakers from Canada, the United States, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. We learned a great deal about the political, economic and social situation in the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

For me, perhaps the most important part of the tour was the insight gained into the political aspirations of the leading social and political forces of the movement for political autonomy of these regions. The most difficult part was seeing the very harsh conditions which people living close to the ceasefire demarcation line with Ukrainian armed forces are suffering.

I will be writing a series of articles about the visit in the coming days and weeks in Counterpunch. One place where they will all be compiled and easily accessible is on my author page on the website which I help to edit: The New Cold War; Ukraine and beyond.

The following is an overview of what I will try to bring to readers.

The political outlook of the Novorossiya movement and the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk


The term “separatist” or “pro-Russia separatist” is a false as well as pejorative description of the pro-autonomy movement in eastern Ukraine. This I already believed. What we learned is that the movement is not “separatist” at all. And it is pluralist. The final political outcome of the autonomy struggle in eastern Ukraine will be determined by the course of political events and a democratic process, not by a pre-determined goal, still less by assumptions by hostile outsiders.

Many people in eastern and southern Ukraine favour the creation of what they term ‘Novorossiya’, a political entity conforming to the historical arc of territory sweeping from eastern Ukraine across southern Ukraine to Odessa in the southwest. But is this to be a contiguous territory? Will it be a distinct or even independent political entity? What about future relations with Ukraine?

The one answer to these question held by everyone we encountered is that the Ukraine of oligarchs, of war and of monist Ukrainian language and culture that would discriminate against others must end. That is a precondition to future relations with or within Ukraine. Apart from that, all political options are open. For many, a decentralized and federated Ukraine would be just fine, provided it is democratic and not run by oligarchs, and provided it can live in peace with its neighbours, particularly with Russia.

Our delegation met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandr Kofman of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Acting Minister of Information Elena Nikitina. We also met members of the Novorossiya Parliament. I will bring you their views in my forthcoming articles.

Social and economic prospects 

 

Media tour group meets Boris Litvinov (center), 
director of the finance and budget committee of the 
Donetsk People’s Republic, April 16, 2015


Our delegation had a meeting with the director of the finance and budget committee of the Donetsk People’s Republic. A comprehensive economic plan for the republic is in preparation. We learned there is a very strong anti-oligarch and social egalitarian determination amidst the autonomy movement in eastern Ukraine.

A nascent banking system has been established in the two republics by nationalizing the banks of the billionaire bankers, notably the Privat Bank of the rightist oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. The grocery distribution and retail systems have been nationalized, as have electricity generation and supply. Industry, notably the large metallurgical holdings of Rinat Akhmetov, has not been nationalized and it is unlikely this would or should be done in any immediate future. Akhmetov’s enterprises provide employment to thousands and they are paying taxes to the people’s republics. At the same time, the days of oligarchs dominating government (including being appointed as provincial governors) are over.

The currency situation is difficult due to Ukraine’s economic blockade. Four currencies are legal or de facto tender—the Ukrainian hryvnia, Russian ruble, Euro and U.S. dollar.

The humanitarian situation


Our delegation saw the two extremes of Donetsk city. In the center of the city (a very beautiful city center, located on the Kalmius River and full of green spaces, public art and attractive buildings) there is little visible war damage. Shops are reasonably full of provisions. But in the outskirts of the city, particularly near the ceasefire demarcation line, residential districts have been heavily damaged by the shellings and ground forays by Ukrainian armed forces and extremist militias. The provision of humanitarian aid is uneven. (See here maps of the demarcation lines in eastern Ukraine and a listing of the damages to the territory caused by Kyiv’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’.)

Due to the escalation of shelling in the past several weeks, adults and children are once again spending nights underground in dank and cramped basement shelters. We toured one neighbourhood near the shattered Donetsk airport as shells were falling a few kilometers away. The resumption of daytime shelling is new. Residents are distraught and angry. They condemn the shelling and wonder why the large countries of Europe let it happen. They expect that their most immediate needs should be met by humanitarian aid. Governing authorities as well as countless citizen volunteers and agencies, including from Russia, are working mightily to meet humanitarian needs. But the needs are many and the resources are limited.

The people old enough to remember the German Nazi invasion of World War Two (80 years of age or older) told us they cannot believe they are re-living the nightmare of their childhoods. This generation of citizens of the former Soviet Union call themselves “children of war”. I suppose they are beginning to call themselves “the elders of war”.

In a background briefing provided to our delegation in Moscow, we learned of the two reports that have been published by the Foundation for the Study of Democracy on the widespread use of torture by Ukraine forces in this war. I will devote a specific forthcoming article to this subject. (Here is the first report, issued on Dec. 24, 2014, and the second report, issued on March 1, 2015.)

Ukraine has imposed an economic blockade on Donetsk and Lugansk, including cessation of payment of old age pensions and other social benefits since last June. One piece of good news while we were in Donetsk is that the new government is in a position to assume payment of old age pensions as of April 1. We talked to elderly people lined up at the branches of the new banking system to receive their pensions. They were happy to be receiving payment, finally, but none too happy with the war that finds them in such a lineup.

Realistically, the string of killings in the streets of Kyiv recently of journalists and opposition politicians does not bode well for peace in the short term.

Personal reflections


I have never before traveled in a war zone. (Two visits to Haiti almost qualify as a war zone, but not quite.) Our safety and personal protection were paramount in the plans of tour organizers. We never once felt endangered.

We were emotionally disturbed at times by what we were seeing and hearing. The most difficult was to see the poor and elderly people living with shelling going on around them and nowhere to go for complete safety and peace of mind.

Something I did not expect to see were the large numbers of schools, hospitals and medical centers that were damaged by shelling.


School #106 in Petrovsky district of Donetsk shattered
by Ukrainian army shelling (photo on April 16, 2015 by Roger Annis)


One large school we stopped to observe (School #106) had every window blasted out. It was a solid building, structurally sound. A colleague commented, “They sure knew how to build solid public buildings during the Soviet era.” As I walked around the schoolyard, I began to notice large numbers of metal fragments on the ground. I bent down to look and discovered they were shards of ghastly-looking shrapnel, some the size of fingers. Shrapnel lying everywhere on a school ground? In Europe in the year 2015? It was too much, a rough end to a long day already packed with emotional reactions to things heard and seen. More than a few tears were shed as we boarded our vehicle to head back to our hotel for the night. This article was also published in Counterpunch, April 21, 2015. Roger Annis is an editor of The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. In mid-April 2015, he joined a four-day reporting visit to the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Neah Bay Fight: Whales Caught Between Treaty Rights Proponents and Marine Conservationists

Sea Shepherd Announces Revival of Campaign Against Makah Treaty Rights

by Charles Tanner Jr  - IREHR

04.22.2015

On March 11, 2015 Sea Shepherd founder and reality TV star of Animal Planet's Whale Wars, Paul Watson, announced that Sea Shepherd Legal (SSL) will make a presentation at an April 27 hearing in Seattle, Washington.

The hearing is being hosted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to follow-up on its February release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) addressing a request by the Makah Tribe to exercise their treaty-reserved right to hunt whales. A second hearing will be held April 29 in Port Angeles, Washington. Paul Watson declared that "permission [to hunt] should not be granted" and claimed that "SSL is also exploring legal avenues of opposition to this proposal."

The Makah Tribe has hunted whales along the shores of the northwest Olympic Peninsula for at least 1,500 years. In the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, the tribe ceded 90% (some 300,000 acres) of their land to the United States, receiving assurance that their hunting and fishing rights would be secured. Treaties with Indian Nations are the "supreme Law of the Land" under the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has described the federal government's role in upholding treaties as "moral obligations of the highest trust and responsibility."

Makah efforts to revive whaling have been part of a larger struggle by tribes across the country to exercise treaty-reserved fishing, water and resource rights. The Makah ceased whaling by the 1930s after industrial whalers decimated gray and humpback whales hunted by the tribe. The tribe resumed efforts to hunt after the gray whale was removed from the endangered species list in 1994. In 1999 tribal whalers successfully hunted a gray whale, bringing Native and non-Native people from around the country to Neah Bay to celebrate.

In 2004 in Anderson v. Evans the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals imposed the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) on the Makah Tribe. This ruling required the tribe to obtain a federal permit to hunt where they had always hunted. Though the decision violated the Treaty of Neah Bay, the court made clear that it had not abrogated the treaty. The NMFS hearings are being conducted under the requirements of this anti-tribal ruling.

Paul Watson's March 11 announcement signals the coming revival of an organized opposition to Makah treaty rights that began in 1995 and continued through the 1999 hunt and beyond. Across this period a loose coalition of animal rights groups and whale watching companies have worked to block the Makah from exercising their treaty-reserved rights.

From the beginning some opponents of Makah whaling engaged in behavior and used rhetoric that can contribute to anti-Indian bigotry and undermine the legitimacy of treaty rights. Some spread misinformation about treaty rights, as when the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society falsely claimed in 2005 that the Treaty of Neah Bay had been abrogated. Sea Shepherd echoed the rhetoric of the organized anti-Indian movement, declaring erroneously that upholding Makah treaty rights would be "tantamount to extra special rights for a group of people based on race and/or culture."

Anti-Indian activists use this same language in their quest to terminate tribal governments and abrogate all treaties. Sea Shepherd, Project Seawolf, Australians for Animals and other groups allied their cause with then-U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf (R-WA). Metcalf (now deceased) was a leader in the anti-Indian movement who maintained a firm foot in the politics of organized white supremacy. Anti-Makah groups have lobbied, litigated and engaged in direct action, including harassing Makah whalers and the tribal community.

These organizations' efforts to abrogate the Treaty of Neah Bay are racist to their core, seeking to violate a federally-protected tribal right through a campaign spewing misinformation and mean-spirited bigotry. This anti-tribal campaign is also wrong-headed for those committed to ecological restoration. The Makah are not now and have never been a threat to the gray whale population. Tribal struggles to exercise sovereignty and defend treaty rights are at the heart of efforts to stop coal trains and coal terminals, halt the Keystone XL pipeline, and restore salmon habitat and water quality. This anti-Makah mobilization threatens the treaty rights of all tribes and could drive a wedge between communities that need each other to gain genuine environmental and social justice.

In an upcoming analysis, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights will examine the anti-Makah coalition's racist efforts to tear up the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay. The Institute will describe this movement's misinformation about treaty rights and expressions of bigotry by movement leaders and members of the public. IREHR will also describe strategies and tactics that can be expected as anti-Makah fervor heats up once again.

In the meantime, the Institute offers two articles written by the Coalition for Human Dignity in 1998 as the anti-Makah campaign emerged in full force. These pieces describe the movement's racist rhetoric, misinformation and alliances with the far right. These articles are offered in the spirit of solidarity with indigenous peoples seeking to exercise their treaty-reserved rights, defend their resources and determine their own destinies. By standing solidly together, we can turn back bigotry and organize for real and just solutions to our many common concerns.

For more on the April 27 and April 29 hearings see the NOAA website.

Yemen to Face Saudi's "Popular Committees" in Latest Charnel House Development

US-Backed Criminal Slaughter in Yemen Revealed

by Finian Cunningham - SCF


Former UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, has given an undiplomatic assessment of the crisis in that country, in which he rhetorically explodes Saudi myths «justifying» the US-backed aerial bombing campaign. The Moroccan diplomat told media at the weekend that the ongoing conflict was a direct result of Houthi rebels having been excluded from the political process last year.

Furthermore, Benomar went on to say unequivocally that during his tenure as UN envoy in Yemen he saw no evidence of Iranian involvement stirring the country’s strife.

That testimony debunks the Western media-contrived whitewash of the continuing Saudi slaughter in Yemen – a slaughter that is being aided and abetted, politically and militarily, by Washington.

Benomar resigned from his diplomatic post last week after three years of being charged with facilitating political talks between Yemeni rebels and the US, Saudi-backed regime of now-ousted president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Benomar’s task had always been a futile one because the foreign sponsors of the Hadi regime were never interested in a genuine transition to a more democratic, representative government in the Arab Peninsula country.

The US, Saudi-backed puppet-president Hadi, who was elected in an uncontested ballot in February 2012, was only ever supposed to hold a transitional office for a year, while in theory overseeing the formation of an elected, fully representative government.

For three years, Hadi under the tutelage of Washington reneged on promises to hand over power to a more democratic constitution. Among those shut out from the transition were the northern-based Houthis. When Hadi and his ruling clique refused to fulfil promises, the Houthis took over government institutions by force and deposed the so-called caretaker president at the beginning of this year.

That account of events has now been substantiated by the former UN envoy, who more than anyone is best-placed to make a call, having had a ringside seat in Yemen for three years.

Benomar’s more recent diplomatic task of trying to re-engage Yemeni opponents in talks was again made impossible because the Gulf Arab backers of the Hadi regime – in particular Saudi Arabia – refused to countenance engagement of the Houthi rebels. This is because the Arab dictators are implacably opposed to allowing a wider franchise in the formation of a new government in Yemen, one that would have genuine democratic participation. Benomar’s resignation last week was prompted by muted antagonism from the Saudi and Qatari rulers.

Saudi Arabia launched an aerial bombing campaign on Yemen on March 26, along with support from other Arab dictatorships, including Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf monarchies of Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The United States has given full political backing to the bombing campaign along with supply of munitions and logistical targeting of air strikes.

The constant air strikes on Yemen for more than three weeks has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths. Last week, eight civilians, including a mother and three children, were killed when a school in Malahidh region near the Saudi border was hit in an air strike. The true death toll of the Saudi-led bombing campaign may be several thousand, much more than official UN figures, according to Yemeni military and medical sources.

The military intervention has been denounced by Russia, China and Iran, with all three countries calling for an immediate halt to the violence. A Russian draft resolution put to the UN Security Council last week calling for a humanitarian ceasefire was rejected by the US and its Arab allies. But an alternative resolution was passed, despite Russia’s abstention, that imposes an arms embargo on the Yemeni rebels.

Washington and its Arab allies have claimed that the Houthis illegally overthrew the Hadi «government». Their justification for the all-out bombing campaign is that they are responding to the «legitimate requests for assistance» from «President Hadi» who last month fled to Saudi Arabia. Last week, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, a «deputy president» of Yemen was sworn into office and continues to reside in the Saudi capital, along with Hadi. This remnant regime in exile can therefore hardly be construed as a «legitimate government».

Moreover, there are clear double standards over the way Washington in particular has tried to uphold the Hadi regime compared with the way it immediately delegitimised the deposed president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. At least Yanukovych was constitutionally elected and had a democratic mandate from a large section of the Ukrainian population. The ousted Yemeni nominal president can make no such claims.

Former UN envoy Jamal Benomar clearly makes the US and Saudi «justifications» for their actions in Yemen untenable. Hadi was an unscrupulous, dishonest broker who had long abused his transitional office for the purpose of obstructing democratic transition, in accordance with the geopolitical wishes of his foreign masters.

The other disclosure by Benomar that Iran has conducted no covert interference in Yemen is equally significant. The alleged subversive role of Iran trying go expand Shia influence in the region has also been held up by the Saudis and the US-coordinated bombing coalition as another «justification». That rationale never posited an acceptable legal argument anyway, even if there had been some Iranian involvement in supporting the popular uprising spearheaded by the Houthis. But what Benomar is saying is that there is not a scintilla of Iranian malfeasance.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran over allegedly «destabilising the region» and he used the claim to rationalise American support for the bombing of Yemen. Kerry claimed without citing specific evidence that Iran was flying in weapons to Houthi rebels. How the Iranians could carry out such a mission while hundreds of Arab warplanes have imposed a no-fly zone over Yemen was not explained by the imaginative Kerry.

Besides, the Iranian government and the Houthi rebels have both strenuously denied any such military connection. Several other independent monitors have also rejected the notion that Iran had infiltrated the country with «fifth columnists» and military supplies.

With the Iranian «bogeyman» factor nullified, that strips the US, Saudi bombing of Yemen down to what it is: criminal foreign aggression.

The broad swathe of Yemeni public have from the outset denounced the foreign coalition as foreign aggression. A Yemeni Army Colonel Sharaf Luqman was quoted by Al Manar news agency as calling the US-Arab bombing a «war crime». He listed the civilian infrastructure destroyed so far to include government buildings, power plants and fuel depots, hospitals, schools, family residences, mosques, markets and businesses.

«Saudi Arabia is the international supporter of terrorism. It is hiring foreign armies because its troops cannot dare to fight in Yemen,» noted Colonel Luqman.

Another Yemeni Army source, Colonel Adel Sattar al Boushali, said that Saudi Arabia had recently sent up to 5,000 Takfiri Al Qaeda mercenaries into Yemen to step up the ground war. The mercenaries, he said, had been relocated from Syria, where they have been waging a covert war on behalf of Western and Arab allies to topple the government of Bashar al Assad.

The US, Saudi criminality in Yemen is thus emerging as both egregious and transparent. There is not a shred of justification for their military operations. Civilians are being mass murdered and a country – the poorest in the region – is being destroyed simply because the foreign powers are refusing to give way to a democratic uprising. These powers are trying to bludgeon the democratic will of the Yemeni people in order to reinstall a discredited, unelected regime that serves to suppress democracy.

Meanwhile over the weekend, the «benevolent» Saudi rulers announced that they were pledging $275 million in «humanitarian aid» to Yemen. How depraved is that? Bombing and massacring with one hand, and then with the other handing out bandages and analgesics to mutilated children.

Surely, a day of judgement is urgently needed whereby Washington and its despotic Arab allies are prosecuted for war crimes in Yemen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Australia's Return to State of "Secrecy"

The Secret Country Again Wages War On Its Own People

by John Pilger - ICH

April 22, 2015


Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa. Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to "support" the homelands.

Vulnerable populations, already denied the basic services most Australians take for granted, are on notice of dispossession without consultation, and eviction at gunpoint. Yet again, Aboriginal leaders have warned of "a new generation of displaced people" and "cultural genocide".

Genocide is a word Australians hate to hear. Genocide happens in other countries, not the "lucky" society that per capita is the second richest on earth. When "act of genocide" was used in the 1997 landmark report 'Bringing Them Home', which revealed that thousands of Indigenous children had been stolen from their communities by white institutions and systematically abused, a campaign of denial was launched by a far-right clique around the then prime minister John Howard. It included those who called themselves the Galatians Group, then Quadrant, then the Bennelong Society; the Murdoch press was their voice.

The Stolen Generation was exaggerated, they said, if it had happened at all. Colonial Australia was a benign place; there were no massacres. The First Australians were victims of their own cultural inferiority, or they were noble savages. Suitable euphemisms were deployed.

The government of the current prime minister, Tony Abbott, a conservative zealot, has revived this assault on a people who represent Australia's singular uniqueness. Soon after coming to office, Abbott's government cut $534 million in indigenous social programmes, including $160 million from the indigenous health budget and $13.4 million from indigenous legal aid.

In the 2014 report 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators', the devastation is clear. The number of Aboriginal people hospitalised for self-harm has leapt, as have suicides among those as young as eleven. The indicators show a people impoverished, traumatised and abandoned. Read the classic expose of apartheid South Africa, The Discarded People by Cosmas Desmond, who told me he could write a similar account of Australia.

Having insulted indigenous Australians by declaring (at a G20 breakfast for David Cameron) that there was "nothing but bush" before the white man, Abbott announced that his government would no longer honour the longstanding commitment to Aboriginal homelands. He sneered, "It's not the job of the taxpayers to subsidise lifestyle choices."

The weapon used by Abbott and his redneck state and territorial counterparts is dispossession by abuse and propaganda, coercion and blackmail, such as his demand for a 99-year leasehold of Indigenous land in the Northern Territory in return for basic services: a land grab in all but name. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, refutes this, claiming "this is about communities and what communities want". In fact, there has been no real consultation, only the co-option of a few.

Both conservative and Labor governments have already withdrawn the national jobs programme, CDEP, from the homelands, ending opportunities for employment, and prohibited investment in infrastructure: housing, generators, sanitation. The saving is peanuts.

The reason is an extreme doctrine that evokes the punitive campaigns of the early 20th century "chief protector of Aborigines", such as the fanatic A.O. Neville who decreed that the first Australians "assimilate" to extinction. Influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis, Queensland's "protection acts" were a model for South African apartheid. Today, the same dogma and racism are threaded through anthropology, politics, the bureaucracy and the media. "We are civilised, they are not," wrote the acclaimed Australian historian Russel Ward two generations ago. The spirit is unchanged.

Having reported on Aboriginal communities since the 1960s, I have watched a seasonal routine whereby the Australian elite interrupts its "normal" mistreatment and neglect of the people of the First Nations, and attacks them outright. This happens when an election approaches, or a prime minister's ratings are low. Kicking the blackfella is deemed popular, although grabbing minerals-rich land by stealth serves a more prosaic purpose. Driving people into the fringe slums of "economic hub towns" satisfies the social engineering urges of racists.

The last frontal attack was in 2007 when Prime Minister Howard sent the army into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to "rescue children" who, said his minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough, were being abused by paedophile gangs in "unthinkable numbers".

Known as "the intervention", the media played a vital role. In 2006, the national TV current affairs programme, the ABC's 'Lateline', broadcast a sensational interview with a man whose face was concealed. Described as a "youth worker" who had lived in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, he made a series of lurid allegations. Subsequently exposed as a senior government official who reported directly to the minister, his claims were discredited by the Australian Crime Commission, the Northern Territory Police and a damning report by child medical specialists. The community received no apology.

The 2007 "intervention" allowed the federal government to destroy many of the vestiges of self-determination in the Northern Territory, the only part of Australia where Aboriginal people had won federally-legislated land rights. Here, they had administered their homelands in ways with the dignity of self-determination and connection to land and culture and, as Amnesty reported, a 40 per cent lower mortality rate.

It is this "traditional life" that is anathema to a parasitic white industry of civil servants, contractors, lawyers and consultants that controls and often profits from Aboriginal Australia, if indirectly through the corporate structures imposed on Indigenous organisations. The homelands are seen as a threat, for they express a communalism at odds with the neo-conservatism that rules Australia. It is as if the enduring existence of a people who have survived and resisted more than two colonial centuries of massacre and theft remains a spectre on white Australia: a reminder of whose land this really is.

The current political attack was launched in the richest state, Western Australia. Last October, the state premier, Colin Barnett, announced that his government could not afford the $90 million budget for basic municipal services to 282 homelands: water, power, sanitation, schools, road maintenance, rubbish collection. It was the equivalent of informing the white suburbs of Perth that their lawn sprinklers would no longer sprinkle and their toilets no longer flush; and they had to move; and if they refused, the police would evict them.

Where would the dispossessed go? Where would they live? In six years, Barnett's government has built few houses for Indigenous people in remote areas. In the Kimberley region, Indigenous homelessness - aside from natural disaster and civil strife - is one of the highest anywhere, in a state renowned for its conspicuous wealth, golf courses and prisons overflowing with impoverished black people. Western Australia jails Aboriginal males at more than eight times the rate of apartheid South Africa. It has one of the highest incarceration rates of juveniles in the world, almost all of them indigenous, including children kept in solitary confinement in adult prisons, with their mothers keeping vigil outside.

In 2013, the former prisons minister, Margaret Quirk, told me that the state was "racking and stacking" Aboriginal prisoners. When I asked what she meant, she said, "It's warehousing."

In March, Barnett changed his story. There was "emerging evidence", he said, "of appalling mistreatment of little kids" in the homelands. What evidence? Barnett claimed that gonorrhoea had been found in children younger than 14, then conceded he did not know if these were in the homelands. His police commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan, chimed in that child sexual abuse was "rife". He quoted a 15-year-old study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. What he failed to say was that the report highlighted poverty as the overwhelming cause of "neglect" and that sexual abuse accounted for less than 10 per cent.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a federal agency, recently released a report on what it calls the "Fatal Burden" of Third World disease and trauma borne by Indigenous people "resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost due to premature death". This "fatal burden" is the product of extreme poverty imposed in Western Australia, as in the rest of Australia, by the denial of human rights.

In Barnett's vast rich Western Australia, barely a fraction of mining, oil and gas revenue has benefited communities for which his government has a duty of care. In the town of Roeburne, in the midst of the booming minerals-rich Pilbara, 80 per cent of the indigenous children suffer from an ear infection called otitis media that causes deafness.

In 2011, the Barnett government displayed a brutality in the community of Oombulgurri the other homelands can expect. "First, the government closed the services," wrote Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International, "It closed the shop, so people could not buy food and essentials. It closed the clinic, so the sick and the elderly had to move, and the school, so families with children had to leave, or face having their children taken away from them. The police station was the last service to close, then eventually the electricity and water were turned off. Finally, the ten residents who resolutely stayed to the end were forcibly evicted [leaving behind] personal possessions. [Then] the bulldozers rolled into Oombulgurri. The WA government has literally dug a hole and in it buried the rubble of people's homes and personal belongings."

In South Australia, the state and federal governments launched a similar attack on the 60 remote Indigenous communities. South Australia has a long-established Aboriginal Lands Trust, so people were able to defend their rights - up to a point. On 12 April, the federal government offered $15 million over five years. That such a miserly sum is considered enough to fund proper services in the great expanse of the state's homelands is a measure of the value placed on Indigenous lives by white politicians who unhesitatingly spend $28 billion annually on armaments and the military. Haydn Bromley, chair of the Aboriginal Lands Trust told me, "The $15 million doesn't include most of the homelands, and it will only cover bare essentials - power, water. Community development? Infrastructure? Forget it."

The current distraction from these national dirty secrets is the approaching "celebrations" of the centenary of an Edwardian military disaster at Gallipoli in 1915 when 8,709 Australian and 2,779 New Zealand troops - the Anzacs - were sent to their death in a futile assault on a beach in Turkey. In recent years, governments in Canberra have promoted this imperial waste of life as an historical deity to mask the militarism that underpins Australia's role as America's "deputy sheriff" in the Pacific.

In bookshops, "Australian non-fiction" shelves are full of opportunistic tomes about wartime derring-do, heroes and jingoism. Suddenly, Aboriginal people who fought for the white man are fashionable, whereas those who fought against the white man in defence of their own country, Australia, are unfashionable. Indeed, they are officially non-people. The Australian War Memorial refuses to recognise their remarkable resistance to the British invasion. In a country littered with Anzac memorials, not one official memorial stands for the thousands of native Australians who fought and fell defending their homeland.

This is part of the "great Australian silence", as W.E.H. Stanner in 1968 called his lecture in which he described a "cult of forgetfulness on a national scale". He was referring to the Indigenous people. Today, the silence is ubiquitous. In Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales currently has an exhibition, 'The Photograph and Australia', in which the timeline of this ancient country begins, incredibly, with Captain Cook.

The same silence covers another enduring, epic resistance. Extraordinary demonstrations of Indigenous women protesting the removal of their children and grandchildren by he state, some of them at gunpoint, are ignored by journalists and patronised by politicians. More Indigenous children are being wrenched from their homes and communities today than during the worst years of the Stolen Generation. A record 15,000 are presently detained "in care"; many are given to white families and will never return to their communities.

Last year, the West Australian Police Minister, Liza Harvey, attended a screening in Perth of my film, 'Utopia', which documented the racism and thuggery of police towards black Australians, and the multiple deaths of young Aboriginal men in custody. The minister cried.

On her watch, 50 City of Perth armed police raided an Indigenous homeless camp at Matagarup, and drove off mostly elderly women and young mothers with children. The people in the camp described themselves as "refugees... seeking safety in our own country". They called for the help of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.

Australian politicians are nervous of the United Nations. Abbott's response has been abuse. When Professor James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, described the racism of the "intervention", Abbott told him to, "get a life" and "not listen to the old victim brigade".

The planned closure of Indigenous homelands breaches Article 5 of the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Australia is committed to "provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for... any action which has the aim of dispossessing [Indigenous people] of their lands, territories or resources". The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is blunt. "Forced evictions" are against the law.

An international momentum is building. In 2013, Pope Francis urged the world to act against racism and on behalf of "indigenous people who are increasingly isolated and abandoned". It was South Africa's defiance of such a basic principle of human rights that ignited the international opprobrium and campaign that brought down apartheid. Australia beware.

Follow John Pilger on Twitter @johnpilger

Who Is Starving Yarmouk (And Where Do Its Residents Belong)?

Who Are the Starving and Besieged Residents of Yarmouk and Why Are They There?

by Paul Larudee - Dissident Voice

April 21st, 2015

There are many illusions about what is happening to the Yarmouk district of Damascus and its Palestinian refugee population. The district was originally set aside in 1957 for Palestinian refugees already living there, whom Israel had expelled from their homes in 1948, with periodic additional populations thereafter. Today it is home to around one million Syrians and Palestinians, of whom the Palestinians number roughly 170,000. Palestinians in Syria have all the rights of Syrian citizens except voting, and in Yarmouk their homes are indistinguishable from those of the Syrian residents.

Starting in 2012, armed elements trying to overthrow the Assad government gained a foothold in Yarmouk. Most Palestinians disapproved, since this violated the traditional exchange of Syrian hospitality for Palestinian neutrality. However, there was no consensus among Palestinians to forcibly expel the intruders.

By June, 2013, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had established a siege on the camp in order to prevent further encroachment toward the center of Damascus, which already receives a daily dose of random mortar attacks. (Three landed just outside my hotel in April, 2014, one killing three people.) Most of the population fled, until only 18,000 remained by October, 2013, according to Fateh leader Abbas Zaki, as reported to Ma’an News. Many thousands are now living outside the camp, in shelter provided by the Syrian government and Syrian humanitarian aid organizations.

In April, 2014 I visited a school that had been converted to living quarters for Yarmouk refugees. The accommodations were immensely crowded and by no means comfortable, a consequence of having to provide for nearly 8 million displaced people in government areas, doubling the normal population for those areas. Nevertheless, food is being provided, as well as education and health services.

Until Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State) entered the camp on April 1, 2015, the figure of 18,000 residents continued to be reported consistently for the next year and a half despite a siege that cut off electricity and water and reduced the availability of essential food and medical supplies. More than a hundred civilians are reported to have died of starvation or lack of medical treatment during those eighteen months. Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others?

Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad. It is hard to know how many are being forcibly prevented from leaving by the armed groups in the camp and how many choose not to leave because they are afraid of the potential consequences.

Some might be considered “human shields”, used by the fighters to deter attacks against them. But they might equally be concerned about becoming “human hostages” if they leave, i.e. of being used to pressure fighters to surrender. The motivations can be complex, but no evidence has been presented to show that the Syrian government is preventing civilians from leaving the camp. In fact, 90% of the population has already left.

Is the Syrian government preventing the distribution of food and medicine in the camp?


Siege is one of the most common military strategies of the SAA. Typically, the army lays siege to an area and prevents food, medicine and of course arms from entering, to the extent possible. On the other hand it welcomes evacuation of civilians, and provides humanitarian aid to those who leave.

The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender, sometimes with amnesty as an inducement. This is classic military strategy, though hard on the civilians, as usual.

In the case of Yarmouk, there is another dimension to the siege. The Syrian government has a long-standing agreement with the Palestinian governing council of the camp that it will not enter without their request. However, the council has never made such a request and the Syrian authorities have never asked for permission. This agreement still holds, although Palestinian forces defending the camp against Daesh have recently formed a joint command and are coordinating their efforts with the Syrian military, which has been providing artillery and aerial support. In addition, the army has been attacking areas adjacent to Yarmouk that are Daesh strongholds, in order to impede their access to Yarmouk and prevent resupply to Daesh forces in the camp.

There is no indication that the SAA is preventing humanitarian aid from being distributed in Yarmouk. Despite the siege, it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid. However, the government wants the civilians to leave, not to introduce additional persons into the camp, so it is reluctant to allow outsiders to enter, especially in consideration of the fact that they have no means of assuring their safety. Nevertheless, it has permitted humanitarian NGOs, including UNRWA, to distribute aid roughly half the time.

The result has been a modest but insufficient flow of aid to camp residents until Daesh captured much of the area. In the fighting to defend the camp and retake the Daesh-occuped areas, it has been much too dangerous for anyone to undertake aid distribution, with horrific consequences on the remaining civilians. As a result, the number of civilian residents has probably dropped to less than half of the 18,000 initial estimate, despite their qualms about evacuating.

Has the Syrian military been using barrel bombs on Yarmouk?


There is no recorded use of barrel bombs in Yarmouk before the entry of Daesh in late March, 2015. Their use in April, 2015 is confirmed, although the number of casualties due to such ordnance is astonishingly small. One or possibly two barrel bombs appear to have been dropped on the street outside the Palestine Hospital in the camp, but with no reported casualties. Higher numbers have been mentioned, but without evidence.

During the heaviest fighting, the Syrian Air Force (SAAF) has used both conventional bombs delivered by jet aircraft and “barrel” bombs in the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent part of Yarmouk. Residents report hearing dozens of explosions, but it is unclear how many were in Yarmouk, how many casualties there may have been and how many were civilians. A total of 18 civilian casualties were counted in all of Yarmouk during a week of intensive fighting at the beginning of April, but none have been attributed to the barrel bombs and it is uncertain who is responsible for the killings.

Does the Syrian army massacre civilians?


One of the main complaints against barrel bombs and the tactics of the SAA is that they cause massive civilian casualties. There is no doubt that disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties have occurred on specific occasions. Overall, however, the number of civilians killed by government forces and loyalists is less than the number of casualties in the fighting forces themselves, possibly as low as two combatants for each civilian. Not since World War One has this been the case for US forces.

As for the “barrel bombs”, the claims of their use against civilians and their exaggerated savagery do not hold up. Like any bomb, they are made of high explosives, sometimes with projectiles added. In this respect they are no different from many types of explosive ordnance used in military forces throughout the world. They are designed for destruction, including destruction of life.

The complaints against them are that a) they are by nature indiscriminate and hit unintended targets and b) they are almost invariably used against civilians. The first is patently untrue. Conventional bombs are usually delivered by fighter-bombers at high speed and often in proximity to the target. In Syrian and other engagements, the speed of delivery offers protection from ground fire. Such speed also reduces accuracy, but the relative proximity to the target compensates substantially for this disadvantage.

Barrel bombs are usually deployed from relatively a greater height that is out of range of ground fire. However, they are dropped from stationary helicopters, which provides greater accuracy that compensates for the height disadvantage. There are few if any reports of barrel bombs failing to hit their intended target (although occasionally the selected target might be the result of poor intelligence).

It has been reported that thousands of barrel bombs have been used by the SAAF since 2012, when they were first deployed, and that there have been thousands of casualties from such weapons. Unfortunately, little more is known except for anecdotal cases. Although some bombs have resulted in only material destruction, others have caused two dozen or more casualties. The available data do not provide much statistical help, such as the average number of casualties per use. Is it more or less than for convention bombs or for US drone weapons, for example? How many of the casualties are civilians and how many combatants? We do not know, but the overall civilian casualty rate remains unusually low compared to most other conflicts in the past century.

What seems clear is that the western press, governments and NGOs have treated barrel bombs as the devil’s weapon. The reason seems to be that while conventional bombs are capable of inflicting just as much damage and loss of life (and are being used extensively by the Ukrainian government), western arsenals do not contain barrel bombs. If these weapons can be sufficiently vilified as a weapon type rather than by their manner of use, Syrian military forces can be blamed for inhumane weaponry without the taint falling upon nations that use different weapons, even ones that are equally or more destructive. Oddly enough, the inhumane DIME and white phosphorous weapons used in Gaza did not provoke equal condemnation, even though the ratio of Israeli military to civilian casualties has been as much as 100 times higher than for the Syrian military.

Why, then, are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Chris Gunness of UNRWA, and most western press agencies condemning the Syrian government for the use of barrel bombs, for starving camp residents, and for preventing residents from leaving? Palestinians and their supporters are accustomed to false and biased reporting on the subject of Palestine. They know that the western media work overtime to protect Israel. That is their agenda. Do they think that these agencies are unbiased with respect to Syria?

The west, Israel, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and many sycophants and puppets of western powers have made abundantly clear that they intend to overthrow the Syrian government, in violation of the UN Charter and other international law prohibiting wars of aggression, and against Syrian national sovereignty. AI, HRW, and other human rights imperialists have never once recognized these facts vis-√†-vis Syria. In fact, they have supported the west’s illegal push for regime change.

Is it not also clear that western institutions and media are distorting their coverage of Syria in order to promote this goal? Apparently not, even to persons who should know better and are accustomed to seeing such distortions in the reporting on Palestine.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
 Read other articles by Paul.

Duped into Disowning Palestine: How Area A Circumscribes National Ambitions

Stuck in Area A: How we were duped into disowning the Palestinians

by Ramzy Baroud - PalestineChronicle.com

Are you surprised that there has been little mobilisation to help Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, which is overrun by militants, and besieged by the Syrian army? Palestinians – and Syrians - there are killed in a myriad of ways, including starvation. As we stand and watch in horror and confusion, they are quickly buried under the mounting pressure of Facebook news feeds or Twitter’s endless tweets.

I am not surprised. Even before Palestinian refugees found themselves embroiled in Syria’s conflict, I appealed to all parties involved, including the Palestinian leaderships (alas, there are several) to spare the refugees the burden of war, and for Palestinians to set their differences aside to avoid a repeat of Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.

Nothing happened, as if recent history was of no consequence and offered no lesson. Hamas was stuck in Gaza, in a real and figurative sense - its attempt at regional politicking was a failure, and is, like 1.7 million refugees reeling under siege. Mahmoud Abbas, his Palestinian Authority and whatever branch of his Fatah party currently at the helm, is stuck in his Area A – a supposedly self-governed region that constitutes about 3 percent of the West Bankv less than one percent of the total size of historic Palestine. While the Israeli army can still raid Area A, made mostly of densely populated cities - arresting Palestinians at will - Abbas is entrusted in managing the affairs of the Palestinians there, which should have been an Israeli responsibility as an Occupying Power, under the Geneva Conventions.

Area B, which is under joint security control between Israel and the PA consumed about 23-25 percent of the West Bank – comprised mostly of nearly 400 hundred Palestinian villages that are virtually under Israeli control. But a whopping 72 percent of the West Bank is under Israeli control, that’s where the settlements are mostly located, and the Israeli military rules with an iron fist.

While Israel sees the entirety of Palestine as its geographic domain, and the whole Middle East region as its political and security domains, Abbas is merrily stuck in Area A. Area A is his bread and butter, his reason for existence as a ‘President’ ruling over a population trapped by Israeli walls and checkpoints, Israel-PA security coordination and the humiliating need for a paycheck at the end of each month.

But while many of us were focused on discrediting Oslo and its defeatist culture, we too are stuck in Area A. We cannot break free from reducing Palestine and the Palestinian people and millions of Palestinian refugees to Area A. We didn’t do this out of malice, or because we don’t care of Yarmouk in Syria, Ein al-Hilweh in Lebanon or Baladiat in Iraq. As we laboured to discredit Oslo, we had no unifying vision outside the confines of Oslo, thus, were trapped in its disempowering language and impossible geography.

There is much history behind this, and I will try to spare you the details. But an incident that took place over ten years registered deeply in my mind. Then I was working for a human rights NGO in London when a man with a distraught voice called our office. “Help me, for Allah’s stake, please help me,” he cried. Literally, he was weeping. My attempt to comfort him failed. He called me using a borrowed cell phone from a rights worker at a refugee camp between Iraq and Jordan. His two brothers were murdered in the Palestinian Baladiat neighbourhood in Baghdad, one by the Shiite militias, one by the Americans.

But when he attempted to seek safety in Jordan, the Jordanians denied him entry. Palestinian refugees have strange and most precious status, irrelevant travel documents that make it extremely hard to travel. His papers were the wrong kind. He was at the desert camp for too many months. I tried, but could do nothing for him.

His problem, like that of the Yarmouk refugees, is that he fell out of favour with politics, with geography, with any applicable human rights. As if he fell out of favour with life altogether. The only relevant document was the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees enshrined in UN Resolution 194. The latter however is a document, cited generously by researchers and activists, but carries no actual weight for the refugees of Baladiat - as hundreds of them perished in the US invasion - or for the 18,000 refugees remain trapped in Damascus.

Yet the process of fragmenting Palestine is as old as the conflict, and has been dictated largely by Israel, as many of us, including Israel’s detractors followed suit, unknowing that they are contributing to the very process that meant to marginalise numerous Palestinian communities.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, we spoke of “Palestinian territories” not Palestine. Progressively, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, were dropped from the Palestinian and Arab political discourse as if they ceased being Palestinian.


When Oslo was signed, we borrowed its deliberately despairing terminologies and confusing geography of Areas A, B and C.

We often learn about the existence of Palestinian villages that happened to fall in the way of the Israeli Separation – read: Apartheid – Wall, simply because they fell in the way of the Israeli bulldozers defacing Palestinians land.

We speak of Gaza when Israel bombs Gaza. In fact, Gaza became central to the Palestine discourse just after the Israeli siege in 2007. Prior to that it was an addendum in a political language centred mostly in the West Bank, primarily in Ramallah, the seat of the throne of Area A.

In other words, willingly or unwillingly, we are trapped in Israeli definitions, some united at times by their love for Israel, others by their loathing of Israel and its occupation, but all in agreement that Israel and only Israel dictates our actions and reactions.

Thus when Palestinians are starved, beheaded or blown to smithereens in Yarmouk, we stand puzzled. We offer sympathy, tears and little action. We cannot even articulate a coherent discourse, aside from pulling out UN Resolution 194 from some dusty archive to talk about the Right of Return, and how the suffering in Yarmouk is ultimately Israel’s responsibility. Proud by our efforts, we carry on with life as if we saved the refugees, all at once, with a single link to a UN website.

When Israel carried out its war on Gaza last summer, nearly 150,000 people protested in London in another massive show of solidarity, duplicated in many cities across the world. For Yarmouk, about 40 people showed up, an admirable effort, but expressive of the fact that the refugees no longer exist at the heart of the Palestine discourse.

In the constant attempt at exposing Israeli injustices against Palestinians, most of us were duped into an Israeli-PA attempt at reducing Palestine into a tiny margin of its actual physical and political spaces that extends from Palestine - the entirety of Palestine - all across the Middle East, hovering above Yarmouk, as it has for many years, without us noticing.

We are trapped in Area A, making an occasional crossover to Areas B and C, only to get back to Area A, where it is relatively safe and easy to fathom and explain. We are stuck behind Israeli walls and checkpoints as we are failing to see the massive space that is Palestine, and the millions of refugees still holding on tattered deeds and rusty keys, since we promised that that their Right of Return is paramount.

Did we lie? Were we lied to? It is more like we were duped into pseudo-reality crafted so proficiently by Israel, and we are finding it extremely difficult to break away from its confines.

But if our hate for the Israeli occupation, and our loathing of Israeli policies are greater than our love for the Palestinians, all of them, starting with the refugees dying in Yarmouk, then, perhaps, it is time to reconsider our understanding and relationship with the conflict altogether.

Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net - is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).