Aletho News


Bahrain fires 1,000 striking workers

Press TV – April 6, 2011

A number of major Bahraini companies have laid off over 1,000 workers as a punishment for taking part in the country’s general strikes that were planned for a show of solidarity with anti-government protesters.

Bahrain’s main opposition bloc says the firms include Bahrain Airport Services and APM Terminals Bahrain, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) called for a nationwide strike first on February 20 and then from March 13 to 22 as protests continued due to the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in the tiny Persian Gulf littoral state.

Officials at Batelco, Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Services and APM Terminals Bahrain said they had laid off more than 200 workers due to absence during the strike.

“It’s illegal in Bahrain and anywhere else in the world to just strike. You have to give two weeks’ notice to your employer,” said one executive who did not wish to be named.

The strike followed a brutal crackdown on protesters by the government in the capital Manama. More lay-offs are expected at Bahrain Petroleum, which has fired the head of its workers’ union.

More than 25 people have been killed, hundreds arrested and thousands injured in the government-authorized violence in Bahrain since February 14, when the public started a popular revolution against the monarchy, which has been ruling the tiny island for more than 200 years.

In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait deployed their troops to Bahrain to reinforce a massive armed crackdown on the popular uprising.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Bahrain fires 1,000 striking workers

Omar Barghouti on ‘Why BDS?’

By Omar Barghouti | Mondoweiss | April 6, 2011

Omar Barghouti has finally been issued a visa to travel to the US for his speaking tour in support of his new book. We’ve included the tour dates and locations after the post below. Haymarket Books has been generous enough to allow us to post a chapter from the book, here’s “Why BDS?”:

BDS book finalThe BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Call, launched in July 2005, was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society unions, political parties, and organizations everywhere. Rooted in a long tradition of nonviolent popular resistance in Palestine against Zionist settler-colonialism1and largely inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, it adopts a rights-based approach that is anchored in universal human rights, just as the US civil rights movement did. It resolutely rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

BDS unambiguously defines the three basic Palestinian rights that constitute the minimal requirements of a just peace and calls for ending Israel’s corresponding injustices against all three main segments of the Palestinian people. Specifically, BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and other Arab territories in Lebanon and Syria; ending  its system of racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and ending its persistent denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of Palestine refugees, particularly their right to return to their homes and to receive reparations.

Calling Israel an apartheid state does not imply that its system of discrimination is identical to apartheid South Africa’s. It simply states that Israel’s laws and policies against the Palestinians largely fit the UN definition of apartheid, which was adopted in 1973 and went into effect in 1976.

For decades efforts to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinian people have categorically failed, further entrenching Israeli colonial hegemony and Palestinian dispossession. The main culprit is the insistence of Israel and successive US governments on exploiting the current massive power imbalance to impose a peace devoid of justice and human rights on the Palestinians, an unjust “solution” that fails to address our basic rights under international law and undermines our inalienable right to self-determination.

In parallel, official Western collusion manifested in unconditional diplomatic, economic, academic, and political support of Israel has further fed Israel’s already incomparable impunity in violating human rights and spurred civil society worldwide to support boycotts against Israel as an effective, nonviolent form of struggle in the pursuit of peace based on justice and precepts of international law.

For too long, while nonviolence has been the mainstay of Palestinian resistance to settler-colonial conquest for decades, the term nonviolence has been associated among Palestinians with appeasement of Israel or submission to some of its unjust demands. There are two main reasons for this negative connotation. First, many of those who advocated “nonviolence” in the past, and who received lavish Western media attention as a result, categorically vilified and denounced armed resistance, presented nonviolence as a substitute for it, and advocated only a minimal set of Palestinian rights, usually excluding or diluting the internationally recognized right of Palestinian refugees to repatriation and compensation, as well as ignoring the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. They therefore stood isolated from the Palestinian grass roots and virtually all respected civil society organizations. Second, Palestinian nonviolent campaigns were often funded, if not directed, by Western organizations, governmental or otherwise, with their own political agendas that conflicted with the publicly espoused Palestinian national agenda as expressed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This entrenched association between nonviolence and a minimalist and seemingly “imported” political program made the term nonviolence subject to suspicion and antipathy among most Palestinians, particularly since armed resistance has been largely linked to a maximalist political program.

I beg to differ with this general characterization. While I firmly advocate nonviolent forms of struggle such as boycott, divestment, and sanctions to attain Palestinian goals, I just as decisively, though on a separate track, support a unitary state based on freedom, justice, and comprehensive equality as the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli colonial conflict. To my mind, in a struggle for equal humanity and emancipation from oppression, a correlation between means and ends, and the
decisive effect of the former on the outcome and durability of the latter, is indisputable. If Israel is an exclusivist, ethnocentric, settler-colonial state, then its ethical, just, and sustainable alternative must be a secular, democratic state, ending injustice and offering unequivocal equality in citizenship and individual and communal rights both to Palestinians (refugees included) and to Israeli Jews. Only such a state can ethically reconcile the ostensibly irreconcilable: the inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to self-determination, repatriation, and equality in accordance with international law and the acquired and internationally recognized rights of Israeli Jews to coexist—as equals, not colonial masters—in the land of Palestine.

While individual BDS activists and advocates may support diverse political solutions, the BDS movement as such does not adopt any specific political formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate, focusing instead on universal rights and international law, which constitute the solid foundation of the Palestinian consensus around the campaign. Incidentally, most networks, unions, and political parties in the BNC still advocate a two-state solution outside the realm of the BDS movement.

Starting with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the premature end of the first Palestinian intifada (1987–1991), through the launching of the Madrid-Oslo“peace process” and until a decade ago, the question of Palestine had been progressively marginalized, if not relegated to a mere nuisance factor, by the powers that be in the new unipolar world. Edward Said reflected on the “peace process” thus:

What of this vaunted peace process? What has it achieved and why, if indeed it was a peace process, has the miserable condition of the Palestinians and the loss of life become so much worse than before the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993? And why is it, as the New York Times noted on 5 November, that “the Palestinian landscape is now decorated with the ruins of projects that were predicated on peaceful integration”? And what does it mean to speak of peace if Israeli troops and settlements are still present in such large numbers? Again, according to RISOT, 110,000 Jews lived in illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank before Oslo; the number has since increased to 195,000, a figure that doesn’t include those Jews—more than 150,000—who have taken up residence in Arab East Jerusalem. Has the world been deluded or has the rhetoric of “peace” been in essence a gigantic fraud?

In quite a revealing turn of history, among the very first substantial  consequences of this “new world order” was the UN General Assembly’s 1991 repeal, under intense US pressure, of its 1975 “Zionism Is Racism” resolution,6thus removing a major obstacle on the course of Zionist and Israeli rehabilitation in the international community. This was followed by the PLO’s formal recognition of Israel under the Oslo accords, which furthered the transformation of Israel’s image from that of a colonial and inherently exclusivist state into a normal member of the international community of nations, one that is merely engaged in a territorial  dispute. After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority(PA), primarily, from Israel’s perspective, to relieve Israel’s colonial burdens in the West Bank and Gaza and to cover up its ongoing theft of Palestinian land to build Jewish-only settlements, Israel embarked on an ambitious public relations campaign in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world, establishing diplomatic ties and opening new markets for its growing industries. Former sworn enemies suddenly warmed up to Israel, importing from it billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware and other goods, and, convinced that the road to the US Congress passed through Tel Aviv, wooing it politically. As a result, Israel multiplied the number of states with which it holds diplomatic relations from a few dozen before Oslo to more than 160 at present.

Meanwhile, the election of George W. Bush in 2000 as the president of the United States and the rise of his neoconservative associates (erstwhile advisers to the far-right Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu) brought Zionist influence in the White House to unprecedented heights, finally matching its decades-old, almost unparalleled influence on Capitol Hill.

But shortly before the US presidential elections, in September 2000, after years of a sham “peace process” that served to disguise Israel’s ongoing occupation and the enormous growth of its colonies in the occupied territories, the second Palestinian intifada broke out. As the uprising intensified, Israel’s brutal attempts to crush it, through means described by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations as amounting to war crimes,8 reopened—at least in intellectual circles—long-forgotten questions about whether a just peace can indeed be achieved with a colonial, ethnocentric, and expansionist Zionist state. It was against this background that the UN World Conference against Racism in Durbanin 2001 revived the 1975 debate on Zionism. Although, as expected, the official assembly failed to adopt a specific resolution on Israel’s multitiered oppression of the Palestinian people due to direct threats from the United States and, to a lesser extent, powerful European states, the NGO Forum condemned Zionism as a form of racism and apartheid. This was an expression of the views of thousands of civil society representatives from across the globe whose struggle against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, is mostly informed by humanist and democratic principles. Despite the official West’s unwillingness to hold Israel to account, Durban confirmed that grassroots support, even in the West, for the justness of the Palestinian cause was still robust, if not yet channeled into effective forms of solidarity.

With the new intifada, boycott and sanctions were in the air. Campaigns calling for divestment from companies supporting Israel’s occupation, for instance, spread to many US campuses, initially causing panic among the ranks of the Israel lobby and its student arm. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was among the earliest internationally renowned figures to support divestment from Israel. The impromptu nature of these early, largely abortive efforts soon gave way to a higher degree of coordination and sharing of experience at a national level in the United States, culminating in the establishment of the Palestine Solidarity Movement and later the US Campaign to End the  Israeli Occupation, a broad coalition of over three hundred groups working to change US foreign policy in favor of a just peace. Across the Atlantic, particularly in the United Kingdom, calls for various forms of boycott against Israel started to be heard among intellectuals, academics, and trade unionists. These efforts intensified with the massive Israeli military reoccupation of Palestinian cities in spring 2002, with all the destruction and civilian casualties it left behind.

By 2004, academic associations, trade unions, and solidarity organizations in the United States and Europe calling for boycott had been joined by mainstream churches, which began to study divestment and other forms of boycott against Israel, similar in nature to those applied to South Africa during apartheid rule. The most significant development at that stage was the precedent-setting decision of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) in July 2004, in a resolution that was adopted by a resounding majority of 431 to 62, to start “a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations doing business in Israel.” Unlike similar declarations adopted by student and faculty groups, the Presbyterian move could not be dismissed as “symbolic” or economically ineffective. Although PCUSA in 2006 dropped the term divestment, opting for “investment in peace” due to threats and intimidation by Israel lobby groups,13its initiative managed to inspire many faith-based organizations, especially, in the West to consider halting their investments in Israel as well.

A development of signal importance for these efforts was the historic advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice(ICJ) at The Hague on July 9, 2004, condemning as illegal both Israel’s wall and the colonies built on occupied Palestinian land. Ironically, the PLO scored this momentous political, legal, and diplomatic victory at a time when it was least prepared to build on it. A similar advisory opinion by the ICJ in 1971, denouncing South Africa’s occupation of Namibia, had triggered what became the world’s largest and most concerted campaign of boycotts and sanctions directed against the apartheid regime, eventually contributing to its demise. Though the ICJ ruling on the wall did not prompt similar reaction, chiefly due to Palestinian structural and political powerlessness, it did fuel a revival of principled opposition to Israeli oppression around the world.

Days before the ICJ ruling, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), formed in April 2004, issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel endorsed by some sixty unions, organizations, and associations in the Palestinian occupied territories urging the international community to boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a “contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization, and system of apartheid.”This call was greatly and qualitatively amplified on the first anniversary of the ICJ ruling, when more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations and unions, including the main political parties, issued the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel “until it fully complies with international law.” After fifteen years of the so-called peace process, Palestinian civil society reclaimed the agenda, articulating Palestinian demands as part of the international struggle for justice long obscured by deceptive “negotiations.” In a noteworthy precedent, the BDS Callwas issued by representatives of the three segments of the Palestinian people—the refugees, the indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, and those under the 1967 occupation. It also directly “invited” conscientious Israelis to support its demands. The Palestinian boycott movement succeeded in setting new parameters and clearer goals for the
growing international support network, sparking, or giving credence to, boycott and divestment campaigns in several countries.

A genuine concern raised by solidarity groups in the West regarding the calls for boycott has been the conspicuous absence of an official Palestinian body behind them. “Where is your ANC?” is a difficult and sometimes sincere question that faced Palestinian boycott activists everywhere. The PLO, in total disarray for years, has remained largely silent. The PA, with its circumscribed mandate and the constraints imposed upon it by the Oslo accords, is inherently incapable of supporting any effective resistance strategy, especially one that evokes injustices beyond the 1967 occupation. Indeed, with rare exceptions, the PA’s role has actually been detrimental to civil society efforts to isolate Israel. This started to change in 2009, when the Sixth
Conference of Fatah, the leading secular political party, adopted a political platform highlighting popular nonviolent struggle as the main form of resistance to the occupation. Much criticism has been leveled at Fatah for holding its conference under occupation, accommodating Israeli demands, and, more substantively, transforming the Palestinian cause from a struggle for self-determination and comprehensive rights to what is seen by many pundits as a hollowed-out process of coexisting with Israeli injustices and denial of some of those basic rights.Still, the enthusiasm for a strong commitment to nonviolent means of countering Israel’s occupation and sprawling colonization eventually led the Fatah-dominated PA  to adopt a—belated—policy of boycotting and calling on other states to boycott products of Israeli colonial settlements. While many Palestinians saw this PAcall for a partial boycott of Israel as “too little, too late,” coming five full years after the
great majority of Palestinian civil society had called for comprehensive BDS measures, there was a sense of vindication nonetheless. “Even” the PA, BDS leaders can now argue, eventually understood the immense power of boycott and popular resistance. It also has helped underline the consensus among Palestinians in support of boycott as a form of struggle against Israel’s violations of international law.

As for “unofficial” Palestinian bodies, a tiny minority of them did not support the July 2005 BDS call. These were mostly smaller NGOs, ever attentive to donor sensitivities, that declined to endorse, some citing as “too radical” the clause on the right of refugee return (despite the fact that it is “stipulated in UN Resolution 194”). Some, bowing to pressure from their European “partners,” feared that the term boycott would invite charges of anti-Semitism. Also, initially the largest Palestinian
political factions, with their predominant decades-old focus on armed struggle, seemed unable to recognize the indispensable role of civil resistance, particularly in the unique—and certainly very different from South Africa’s—colonial conditions of siege that the Palestinians had to resist.18By either inertia or reluctance to critically evaluate their programs in light of a changed international situation, these forces became addicted to the armed model of resisting the occupation, ignoring the troubling moral and legal questions raised by certain indiscriminate forms of that resistance and its failure to date to achieve concrete and sustainable results in an international environment dominated by Israel’s main sponsor and enabler, the United States. Despite this initial reluctance, all major Palestinian political parties signed on to the BDS Call, widening the circle of consensus around it.

In order to realize Palestinian aspirations for self-determination, freedom, and equality and to pose a real challenge to Israel’s dual strategy of on the one hand fragmenting, ghettoizing, and dispossessing Palestinians and on the other hand projecting a reduced image of the colonial conflict as a symmetrical dispute over rival claims and a diminished set of Palestinian rights, the PLO must be resuscitated and remodeled to embody the aspirations, creative energies, and national frameworks of the three main segments of the Palestinian people. The PLO’s grassroots organizations need to be rebuilt from the bottom up with mass participation, inclusive of all political forces, and must be ruled by unfettered democracy through proportional representation.

In parallel, the entire Palestinian conceptual framework and strategy of resistance must be thoroughly and critically reassessed and transformed into a progressive action program capable of connecting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice with the international social movement. The most effective and morally sound strategy for achieving these objectives is one based on gradual, diverse, context-sensitive, and sustainable campaigns of BDS—political, economic, professional, academic, cultural, athletic, and so on—and other forms of popular resistance, all aimed at bringing about Israel’s comprehensive and unequivocal compliance with international law and universal human rights.

BDS will unavoidably contribute to the global social movement’s challenge to neoliberal Western hegemony and the tyrannical rule of multi/transnational corporations. In that sense, the Palestinian boycott against Israel and its partners in crime becomes a small but critical part in an international struggle to counter injustice, racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and gender oppression, among other social and economic ills. Reflecting on this aspect of the BDS movement, and connecting it with the 2009 environmental international summit held in Denmark, John Pilger, the widely acclaimed journalist and writer, states:

The farce of the climate summit in Copenhagen affirmed a world war waged by the rich against most of humanity. It also illuminated a resistance growing perhaps as never before: an internationalism linking justice for the planet with universal human rights, and criminal justice for those who invade and dispossess with impunity. And the best news comes from Palestine.

. . . To Nelson Mandela, justice for the Palestinians is “the greatest moral issue of the age.” The Palestinian civil society call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) was issued on 9 July 2005, in effect reconvening the great, non-violent movement that swept the world and brought the scaffolding of [South] African apartheid crashing down.”

In this context, it is important to emphasize that it is not just Israel’s military occupation and denial of refugee rights that must be challenged but the wider Zionist-Israeli system of racist exclusivism. Jewish groups that historically stood in the front lines of the struggle for civil rights, democracy, equality before the law, and separation between church and state in many countries should find Israel’s unabashedly ethnocentric and racist laws and its reduction of Palestinians to relative
humans, whether in the occupied territories, in exile, or within Israel itself, to be politically indefensible and ethically untenable. Ultimately, then, successful nonviolent resistance requires transcending the fatally ill-conceived focus on the occupation alone to a struggle for justice, equality, and comprehensive Palestinian rights.

I am aware that reducing Palestinian demands to ending the occupation alone seems like the easiest and most pragmatic path to take, but I firmly believe that it is ethically and politically unwise to succumb to the temptation. The indisputable Palestinian claim to equal humanity should be the primary slogan raised, because it lays the proper moral and political foundation for effectively addressing the myriad injustices against all three segments of the Palestinian people. It is also based on
universalist values that resonate with people the world over. While coalescing with diverse political forces is necessary to make this direction prevail, caution should be exercised in alliances with “soft” Zionists lest they assume the leadership of the BDS movement in the West, lowering the ceiling of its demands beyond recognition. On the other hand, principled Jewish voices—whether organizations or intellectuals consistently supporting a just and comprehensive peace—in the United States,
Europe, and Israel have courageously supported various forms of boycott, and this helps shield the nascent boycott movement from charges of anti-Semitism and the intellectual terror associated with them.

Supporting the UN-sanctioned rights of all segments of the Palestinian people does not, however, entail adopting BDS tactics that necessarily target all Israeli institutions. Tactics and the choice of BDS targets at the local level must be governed by the context particularities, political conditions, and the readiness (in will and capacity) of the BDS activists. In the United States, for instance, two of the most active and creative BDS groups, Adalah-NY and Code Pink, endorse the 2005 BDS Call with its comprehensive rights-based approach and run effective campaigns that are very targeted and nuanced, focusing only on companies indisputably implicated in Israeli violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory. The same can be said of the largest BDS- related coalition in France, Coalition against Agrexco-Carmel.

Besides the need to extend the struggle beyond ending the occupation, two other pertinent points in connection with BDS initiatives bear emphasizing. First, they should be guided by the principles of inclusion, diversity, gradualness, and sustainability. They must be flexibly designed to reflect realities in various contexts. Second, although the West, owing to its overwhelming political and economic power as well as its decisive role in perpetuating Israel’s colonial domination, remains the main battleground for this nonviolent resistance, the rest of the world should not be ignored. Aside from South Africa and some beginnings elsewhere, the BDS movement has yet to take root in China, India, Malaysia, Brazil, and Russia, among other states that seek to challenge the West’s monopoly on power. It is worth noting that Zionist influence in those states remains significantly weaker than in the West.

With the formation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, in 2008,25it became the reference and guiding force for the global BDS movement, which was all along based on the Palestinian-initiated and -anchored BDS Call. The BNCis the coordinating body for the BDS campaign based on the Palestinian civil society BDS Call of 2005. Upholding civil and popular resistance to Israel’s occupation, colonization, and apartheid, the BNCis a broad coalition of the leading Palestinian political parties, unions, coalitions, and networks representing the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees; Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip; and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The BNC adopts a rights-based approach and calls for the international BDS campaign to be sustained until the entire Palestinian people can exercise its inalienable right to freedom and self-determination and Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

BDS is not only an idea. It is not merely a concept. It is not just a vision. It is not all about strategy. It is all those, for sure, but also much more. The Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is above everything else a deeply rooted yet qualitatively new stage in the century-old Palestinian resistance to the Zionist settler-colonial conquest and, later, Israel’s regime of occupation, dispossession, and apartheid against the indigenous people
of Palestine.

The global BDS campaign’s rights-based discourse and approach decisively, almost irrefutably, exposes the double standard and exceptionalism with which the United States and most of the other Western states have to varying degrees treated Israel ever since its establishment through the carefully planned and brutally executed forcible displacement and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people in the 1948 Nakba. More crucially, the BDS movement has dragged Israel and its well-financed, bullying lobby groups into a confrontation on a battlefield where the moral superiority of the Palestinian quest for self-determination, justice, freedom, and equality neutralizes and outweighs Israel’s military power and financial prowess. It is the classic right-over-might paradigm, with the right being recognized by an international public that is increasingly fed up with Israel’s criminality and impunity and is realizing that Israel’s slow, gradual genocide places a heavy moral burden on all people of conscience to act, to act fast, and to act with unquestionable effectiveness, political suaveness, and nuance, and above all else with consistent, untarnished moral clarity. Thus BDS.

Omar Barghouti Speaking Tour (for more information see here)

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Omar Barghouti on ‘Why BDS?’

Why Public Support for Free Trade Will Collapse Soon

By Ian Fletcher | Activist Post | April 6, 2011

For once, some good news: public support for free trade will almost certainly collapse over the next few years.  On this issue, the public is way ahead of the political class in the quality of its thinking, and the average hardware store owner in Nebraska understands the real economics involved better than the average U.S. Senator.

Public opinion certainly continues to turn against free trade: an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in September 2010 found 53% of Americans believing free trade agreements hurt the U.S., with only 17% believing them beneficial.  (The split had been 30%  vs. 39% in the dot-com boom year of 1999.)  86%  named outsourcing to low-wage nations the key cause of America’s failure to emerge fully from recession and create jobs, significantly outranking choices like the federal deficit. The turn against free trade was sharpest among the affluent and cut across boundaries of class, region, and political affiliation.

As of early 2011, there are four missing prerequisites for free trade to explode as an issue and collapse as a policy:

1.    Everyone is still preoccupied with the financial crisis, its aftermath, and recovery from recession, especially job recovery.

2.    There remains a residual sense in the minds of the public and the lawmakers that somehow free trade, despite all its problems, is still sound economics, and that perhaps we should just keep on eating our spinach because it will be good for us in the end.

3.    There is no obvious alternative policy on the table. There is instead a grab bag of issues, ranging from Chinese currency manipulation to the proposed Korea, Colombia, and Panama free trade agreements. This paucity of credible alternatives feeds the defeatist attitude that nothing fundamental can be done, which feeds apathy.

4.    A specific crisis has not happened to force the system out of its old way of doing things as the debacle in subprime mortgages upended our financial system in 2008 and made continuation of prior policy impossible whether anyone wanted it or not.

For the first prerequisite above to be supplied, all it will take is time, as recessions, even double-dip recessions (?), always eventually end, and the financial crisis of 2008 was successfully patched (albeit at astronomical cost and without fixing its underlying causes, risking a repeat).
For the second prerequisite to be supplied, all it will take is sufficient public debate, between persons perceived as credible, for free trade to become established in the public mind as an issue with two legitimate sides to it. As the reader has hopefully gathered from my column by now, once one seriously scrutinizes the underlying economics of free trade, even if one is not disabused of the policy outright it becomes hard to deny that it is a legitimately controversial issue. The pure “100 percent free trade with 100 percent of the world 100 percent of the time” position is simply not intellectually serious. (Free traders will, of course, respond that none of them actually believe in literal 100% free trade. The reader may judge whether the various kinds of 99% free trade they believe in are significantly different.)

So when public debate finally cracks open, free trade will lose its innocence very fast.

Once protectionism is perceived as a legitimate choice, it will become the actual choice of large numbers of people whose protectionist instincts have been held back by the belief that it is somehow an ignorant position to take. They will not need to master the details of why it is legitimate; they will only need to know that it is legitimate.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), one of the leading opponents of free trade in the Senate, reports that ever since he came to Congress in 1993, every free trade vote has been accompanied by predictions by the White House of economic disaster if it was not passed. Trade wars, stock market decline, and recession were predicted every time. The power of this rhetoric to intimidate is going to end. “Protectionist” will cease to be a canard and become just another policy option.

The third prerequisite above (no obvious alternative) can emerge overnight if some major political figure launches a tariff proposal that captures the public’s imagination. Or the myriad individual issues that currently comprise the opposition to free trade could force the soldering together of an omnibus proposal on the floor of Congress.

The fourth prerequisite (a sudden crisis) is difficult to predict as to time, but we can rely securely upon the fact that unsustainable trends are always, in the end, not sustained. At some point, America’s giant overdraft against the rest of the world must come to an end. Although our government is trying to postpone the day of reckoning as long as possible, this day will come. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flying to China to beg its government to keep buying our bonds (as she did in February 2009) won’t make much difference in the end.

Once protectionism is conceded to be a valid political position, it will eventually win the public debate, if free trade’s unpopularity continues to mount at the pace it has been mounting over the last 10 years. And this pace is, if anything, likely to accelerate.

When this happens, the status quo will be sustained only by the tacit bargain of the American political duopoly, in which the two parties agree not to make trade a serious issue, whatever tactical feints they may deploy. This corrupt bargain will hold as long as the benefits of keeping it, which mainly consist in keeping the corporate backers of both parties happy, exceed the benefits of defecting from it, which consist in winning votes.

Once one party defects, protectionism will, if rationally designed and competently implemented, almost certainly be sufficiently successful in practice (and therefore popular) that the other party will have no choice but to follow. The alternative, if one party insists on handicapping itself by clinging to an unpopular position on such a major issue, is an era of one-party political dominance like 1860-1932 or 1932-80.

Make no mistake: we are heading for a big economic paradigm shift here.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Economics | Comments Off on Why Public Support for Free Trade Will Collapse Soon

Ivorian forces storm Gbagbo residence

Press TV – April 6, 2011
Pro-Ouattara forces have surrounded the presidential residence in Abidjan

Forces loyal to Ivorian president-elect Alassane Ouattara say they have launched a final assault on the residents of incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan.

Gbagbo has been holed up in a bunker at his home after being cornered by Ouattara followers.

A spokeswoman for Ouattara forces said on Wednesday that pro-Ouattara forces were closing in on the bunker where Gbagbo is hiding.

“Yes they (Ouattara forces) are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo, they have not taken him yet, but they are in the process, they are in the building,” Reuters quoted Spokesman Affousy Bamba as saying.

Heavy weapons fire and explosions have been heard near Gbagbo’s residence and the presidential palace. Gbagbo has denied reports that he wants to surrender.

This comes after the UN said three generals loyal to Gbagbo are negotiating conditions for his surrender in return for guarantees of his safety.

Meanwhile, France has denied alleged involvement in attacks on Gbagbo’s residence.

While much of the international community has recognized Ouattara as the winner of the vote, Gbagbo refused to cede power. Tensions further escalated after they both claimed victory and appointed separate cabinets.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives since the controversial presidential election in November 2010.


Cynthia McKinney:

Black Agenda Report | April 5, 2011

When I was in the Congress, I received a phone call from Alassane Ouattara from aboard Henry Kissinger’s yacht. I had received many such calls from people wanting to benefit from my good reputation within the human rights and peace community in the United States and they wanted me to sell their particular potion of iniquity to people inside the United States and to the world. Usually, these people were the kind of people accustomed to buying the consciences of public persons, so my “no” resounded rather sharply to them, and I earned yet another set of crosshairs on my forehead, I guess.

Alassane Ouattara and his Zionist wife, Dominique, were seeking my assistance–or maybe my silence–in his effort to become President of Ivory Coast. I applaud Laurent Gbagbo in his efforts to stave off imperialism in Ivory Coast, one of the few African countries that has not one iota of a relationship with the U.S. military. However, Democracy Now, FOX, CNN, AP, Reuters, and all the rest didn’t tell you that when they ran their many stories about Ivory Coast. While the world will celebrate “democracy” arriving in Ivory Coast once Gbagbo is gone, the exact opposite will actually be the case. Handing Ivory Coast over to Henry Kissinger and his ilk is the policy of the Obama Administration. I guess, President Obama is proving his worth: perhaps no one could have done it better.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | Comments Off on Ivorian forces storm Gbagbo residence

Charges against Gazan engineer show strip is still occupied

Dirar Abu Sisi was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Ukraine. He is charged with developing rockets, missiles and mortar shells for Hamas

Yossi Gurvitz | +972 | April 5 2011

Israel has kidnapped, apparently with the Ukrainian authorities turning a blind eye, a Gazan engineer named Dirar Abu Sisi. He was detained for several weeks under the usual schtick of a double gag order: one gag order preventing making public the fact that he is held, another denying the public the right to know there is a gag order. This buys the GSS (Internal Security Service) precious torture time, and allows him to present the prisoner to the press after he has confessed, which is as it likes it. Yesterday, the veil of secrecy was lifted as Abu Sisi was indicted, confessions and all. His lawyers say they have been tortured out of him, which is a reasonable claim.

The GSS claims Abu Sisi provided Hamas with weapons technology and developed rockets, missiles and mortar shells for it. Which is where it all turns to farce. Abu Sisi, who is not an Israeli citizen, is charged with violations of Israeli law, which has no standing either in the Gaza Strip or in Ukraine, where he was kidnapped. Specifically (Hebrew), the charges are: Membership in a terror organization (residing outside the borders of Israel), contact with a foreign agent (again, this law is invalid in Gaza), conspiracy to commit crimes (likewise), an attempted murder (likewise), and manufacturing of arms.

The last charge is particularly twisted. As far as the Israeli authorities are concerned, the manufacture of any weapon – including the anti-tank rockets Abu Sisi allegedly developed – is a felony. In the hugely asymmetrical armed struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a Palestinian who produces weapons is ipso facto a criminal.

Once again, Israel plays at its favorite double game: When it wants to, the struggle with the Palestinians is a war, which allows it to use the laws of war; when the mood fits her, it is crime suppression. Enemy fighters are never considered to be soldiers, when they are caught; they are always criminals. They don’t get the protections enjoyed by soldiers, even if all they did was resist the Israeli army, but are tried as common criminals. So, on the one hand Israel holds the West Bank under “wartime powers”; on the other hand, anyone objecting to this military occupation is a felon = according to Israeli law, which has no validity in the territories.

The injustice in Abu Sisi’s case is particularly striking: Israel, after all, keeps claiming she does not control the Gaza Strip any longer. And yet, it dares to try a Gazan according to Israeli law, something it did not do when it occupied the place (then, Palestinians were subject to military law). Abu Sisi’s kidnapping highlights the fact that the Israeli occupation in the Strip did not end; it was just mutated.

The kidnapping also sheds an unusually ironic light on one of Israel’s regular claims: That courts in other countries are disbarred from extending their jurisdiction to visiting IDF gunmen. Israel itself, of course, thinks it has precisely this right, and that it extends not just to visitors but to people it brought over by force.

These contradictions are simply not seen by most Israelis. They consider Israel to be the eternal victim, and hence as a country to whom normal rules do not apply. Later, they are puzzled – if they stop at that station at all, before arriving at their final destination of whiny victimhood – when the rest of the world considers Israel to be the neighbourhood bully.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Charges against Gazan engineer show strip is still occupied