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US ‘Democracy Promotion’ Destroys Democracy Overseas

By Ron Paul| March 23, 2014

It was almost ten years ago when, before the House International Relations Committee, I objected to the US Government funding NGOs to meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine. At the time the “Orange Revolution” had forced a regime change in Ukraine with the help of millions of dollars from Washington.

At that time I told the Committee:

We do not know exactly how many millions—or tens of millions—of dollars the United States government spent on the presidential election in Ukraine. We do know that much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate, and that through a series of cut-out non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—both American and Ukrainian—millions of dollars ended up in support of the presidential candidate…

I was worried about millions of dollars that the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various related organizations spent to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs. But it turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Last December, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland gave a speech in which she admitted that since 1991 the US government has:

[I]nvested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine…in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government.

This is the same State Department official who was caught on tape just recently planning in detail the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

That five billion dollars appears to have bought a revolution in Ukraine. But what do the US taxpayers get, who were forced to pay for this interventionism? Nothing good. Ukraine is a bankrupt country that will need tens of billions of dollars to survive the year. Already the US-selected prime minister has made a trip to Washington to ask for more money.

And what will the Ukrainians get? Their democracy has been undermined by the US-backed coup in Kiev. In democracies, power is transferred peacefully through elections, not seized by rebels in the streets. At least it used to be.

The IMF will descend on Ukraine to implement yet another of its failed rescue plans, which enrich the well-connected and international bankers at the expense of the local population. The IMF adds debt, organizes sweetheart deals for foreign corporations, and demands that the local population accept “austerity” in exchange for “reform” that never seems to produce the promised results.

The groundwork for this disaster has been laid by NED, USAID, and the army of NGOs they have funded over the years in Ukraine.

Supporters of NED and its related organizations will argue that nothing is wrong with sending US dollars to “promote democracy” overseas. The fact is, however, that NED, USAID, and the others have nothing to do with promoting democracy and everything to do with destroying democracy.

It is not democracy to send in billions of dollars to push regime change overseas. It isn’t democracy to send in the NGOs to re-write laws and the constitution in places like Ukraine. It is none of our business.

How should we promote democracy overseas? First, we should stop the real isolationists — those who seek to impose sanctions and blockades and restrictions that impede our engagement overseas. We can promote democracy with a US private sector that engages overseas. A society that prospers through increased trade ties with the US will be far more likely to adopt practices and policies that continue that prosperity and encourage peace.

In 2005, arguing against funding NED in the US foreign assistance authorization bill, I said:

The National Endowment for Democracy…has very little to do with democracy. It is an organization that uses US tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas. It underwrites color-coded ‘people’s revolutions’ overseas that look more like pages out of Lenin’s writings on stealing power than genuine indigenous democratic movements.

Sadly, matters are even worse now. To promote democracy overseas, NED and all other meddling US government funded NGOs should be disbanded immediately.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amnesty International Opposes Venezuelans Defending Their Human Rights

Venezuelanalysis | March 23, 2014

In a recent article Amnesty International accused the Venezuelan government of a “witch hunt” when opposition mayor, Daniel Ceballos was arrested. However, Amnesty has yet to use such strong language against the five weeks of human rights violations people in Venezuela have suffered at the hands of violent opposition sectors. The “witch hunt” term demonises the people’s right to bring such criminals to justice.

Amnesty argues in its article, Venezuela: Arrest of local mayor signals potential “witch hunt”, dated 20 March 2014, that Ceballos, mayor of San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state, was arrested for his “alleged involvement in anti-government protests…authorities in Venezuela seem to be setting the scene for a witch hunt against opposition leaders”.

It is important to counter the horrendous distortions contained in the article, because despite the fact that Amnesty is not expert on Venezuela, the private media and even some leftwing media will quote its positions as fact. Further, articles like this embolden the criminals and coup participants who make up a part of the opposition leadership, while making it harder for those of us here who have suffered from the violence to be able to demand arrests, and authorities to carry them out.

As I write (on Saturday afternoon), I can hear constant gunshots coming from down the road. Violent groups who have called for President Maduro to resign, are firing from the street and apartment buildings at people, buses, and cars on the main city intersection on Avenue Las Americas. They have set a bus on fire, and two people have been shot, including a youth from the barrio where I teach. The other is a Cantv worker –reports coming in now that he has died. Four police have been injured. The driver of that bus has now lost his living. Photo, photo, photo, and video.

That intersection has been like this, to different extents for weeks. Last week on my way to work I took photos of a burnt truck and rubbish there. Because of the violent opposition blockades, for weeks people haven’t been able to exercise their basic human rights and get to work, school, university, shops, and hospitals. There are various such blockades around the country, mainly concentrated in cities with an opposition mayor, including Ceballos’ city of San Cristobal. The blockaders verbally abuse, physically attack, and sometimes charge bribes to people who want to get through. Others have not been able to get through and have been stuck inside their house, or outside of it, for weeks. The blockaders have hung effigies of Chavistas in red shirts, and painted slogans in the road that involve anti-Cuban racism. Journalists, including myself, as well as various community, alternative, and private media journalists, have been physically attacked and threatened when trying to cover what Amnesty in its article refers to as “protests”. If they were protests, the protestors would welcome the publicity. 31 people have been killed, the majority by blockaders, and the violent opposition sectors have also destroyed buses, stations, burnt houses and shops, attacked the buildings of public institutions and media outlets, and destroyed countless fences, traffic lights, signage, and billboards.

By leaving out all political, historical and economical context, and ignoring the opposition’s proven history of backing the rich elites, Amnesty probably believes it is being “neutral”. In fact, the organisation’s limited and Eurocentric understanding of democracy and rights sees it in this article condemning a so called attack on an individual, whilst being blind to the (failing) attempt currently underway to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Ceballos meanwhile, has publically –through his Twitter account, the media, and his own actions – supported that attempt. While his level of involvement- financial or not- in the violence is up to the courts to pronounce, that much is clear. Despite video evidence proving the contrary, he blamed the National Guard for the death of an opposition blockader, then paraded the victim’s coffin through the town to support his political cause. The Supreme Court later ordered Mayor Ceballos to remove blockades in the city so that people could exercise their right to free transit, and he ignored that order. The Tachira governor has also accused  Ceballos of allegedly having foreign bank accounts containing money he has allegedly made out of his support for drug smuggling and petrol contraband, as well as permitting the presence of Colombian paramilitaries, who have allegedly been supporting the far right’s campaign to remove Maduro.

Minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez said, “A mayor is obliged to comply with the constitution and the law, and to not foment violence, anarchy, and civil rebellion”.   Given that there is at least very solid evidence for his support for the violent barricades, is it not reasonable to take Ceballos to court? If a mayor in Australia or the US or Europe were to actively encourage destruction of public property, chaos, closing roads so that people can’t get urgent medical care, and the overthrow of that nation’s government, would it be a “witch hunt” if that mayor was taken to trial? Or is it only progressive governments who aren’t allowed to arrest open criminals and put them on trial?

In the article, Amnesty’s America’s spokesperson Guadalupe Marengo concludes, “It is undeniable that authorities in Venezuela have a responsibility to maintain public order. However, unless they respect the human rights of all and exercise restraint, their actions will lead to even more violence.” What Marengo fails to acknowledge, is the ridiculous levels of restraint the Venezuelan government has exercised.

No other government in the world would be this restrained in the face of such intense and long lasting violence and violations, as well as the threat to overthrow it. There have been a few exceptions, and no other government in the world would publically reject such exceptions, then arrest the perpetrators, as the one here has. 14 members of security forces have been arrested for alleged abuses and excessive use of force, while not one police responsible for racial killings in Australia for example, has ever been arrested – rather they tend to be promoted. Further, despite putting up with constant verbal harassment, racism, injuries, and six deaths so far from opposition “protestors”, the National Guard has mostly remained calm, here for example, giving blockaders a workshop in human rights, then letting them go.

The Venezuelan people have also been incredibly patient and peaceful. In little Merida alone, thousands of government supporters have marched for peace four times in one month, despite not being able to get into the city because the violent opposition threatened the bus union if they didn’t go on strike. There has been up to a hundred more marches around the country calling for peace, and in Merida, government supporters have organised daily cultural events in the main plaza. Further, the national government and state governments have repeatedly called for, and held, peace talks, which the opposition, including Ceballos, has refused to attend.

Ceballos is being charged with civil rebellion, Article 143 of the Penal Code, and criminal association, Article 258 of the Penal Code. According to Ultimas Noticias, Ceballos was arrested because of denouncements made by citizens in his municipality who demanded “actions be taken because of the closing of roads and lack of rubbish collection”. They also argued that he had been leading the attacks on public and private property, on people, and on free transit, and they lodged a petition in the Third Court of San Cristobal. The First Control Court in the city then put out the arrest warrant, which was carried out by the Sebin. Though national government authorities have commented on the arrest- as is their political right, do the citizens of Ceballos’ municipality not have the right to lodge complaints? Does Amnesty have the right to argue that if myself and others in Merida, facing a similar situation with the opposition mayor here, were to lodge a petition to have him arrested, it would be a witch hunt? We don’t have the right to defend ourselves, our human rights – our right to education, to work, to get health care, to walk freely in the streets, to public transport, to safety, which is being infringed by these violent barricades?

Impunity feeds crime, and nobody, not even mayors, politicians, or police should have it.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuelan Ombudswoman Accuses “NGOs” of “False” Reports

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Correo del Orinoco | March 22, 2014

Venezuelan ombudswoman Gabriela Ramírez has accused international organizations of misrepresenting human rights conditions in Venezuela.

vtvAccording to Ramirez, non-government organizations have been part of a campaign of “attacks” on Venezuela.

“A few NGOs have forged reports against our institution with false information,” Ramirez tweeted on Monday.

Since last month Venezuela has come under renewed criticism from international human rights monitors.

On 21 February, the United States based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Venezuelan security forces of using excessive force, while claiming it couldn’t find evidence of “anti-government protesters carrying firearms or using lethal force against security forces or third parties”.

Since February at least 29 people have been killed amid anti-government demonstrations and opposition violence. Among the dead are security forces and civilians who have been killed by firearms during clashes with the opposition.

The day before the HRW report was released, the brother of a socialist party (PSUV) deputy, Arturo Alexis Martinez was shot dead by a sniper. He was trying to clear an opposition barricade in Lara state when he was killed. On 24 February, motorbike taxi worker Antonio Jose Valbuena was shot by a masked individual in Maracaibo while clearing another opposition barricade. The alleged assailant reportedly demanded Valbuena desist from the attempt to clear the barricade. Since then assailants have shot at least two more civilians trying to clear opposition barricades.

Three national guard soldiers have also been shot dead during clashes with the opposition, including Giovanni Pantoja in Carabobo on 28 February, Acner Isaac Lopez Leon on 6 March in Caracas, Ramzor Bracho in Carabobo on 12 March and Jose Guillen Araque on 17 March.

According to Ramirez, misrepresentations of Venezuela by non-government organizations (NGOs) comes amid an anti-government social media campaign of misinformation.

Since February, photographs have circulated on social media websites including Twitter and Facebook of alleged cases of human rights violations by Venezuelan security forces. However, many of the photographs appear to be taken in countries as diverse as Syria, Chile and Egypt, but with inaccurate captions indicating they were taken in Venezuela.

HRW’s own report is accompanied by a photograph of what is claimed to be “a tank in San Cristobal”. The “tank”, was a statue that had been moved into the middle of the road and vandalized by opposition protesters.

Ramirez accused NGOs of being backed by the US State Department, which has also attacked Venezuela. In a report last month, the department leveled accusations against the Maduro government similar to those issued by HRW, while Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened possible “sanctions”.

Kerry’s comments have since been condemned by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), along with the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“The Miami lobby is taking measures to sanction Venezuela, but I tell you, you’ll be going down a road without return,” Maduro stated in response to Kerry.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Arab brainwashing by the US media

By Paul J. Balles | August 8, 2009

More insidious than the wars with tanks and guns, aircraft and bombs, missiles and guidance systems, shock and awe campaigns. The wickedest wars are the wars for people’s minds – the propaganda campaigns that exercise thought control…

Western brainwashing comes from the media. Readers, listeners and viewers need to be aware of these propaganda sources. About the media in general, Steven Salaita correctly observed:

The flippancy with which US media apply the word “terrorism” to Arab populations reinforces the notion that violence in the Arab world is ahistorical and therefore senseless. Arabs in turn become a people without narratives who belong to a culture incapable of rationality.

Steve Emerson has a website and blog with as much anti-Arab ranting on it as any bigot might produce. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has implied that all Arabs are potential terrorists and therefore worthy of slaughter. American Israeli Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of The Jerusalem Post, writes two weekly syndicated columns preaching hard-line Israeli propaganda.

InThe Progressive, Ruth Conniff validated the false but widespread notion that while violence exists among both Arabs and Israelis, terrorism is exclusive to the Arabs. When Arabs fight against Israelis, the Arabs are guilty of “terrorist violence” but the Israelis are engaging in “military reprisals”.

On anti-Arab radio you hear things like “Arabs love dictators” and “Obama is an Arab,” as if being an Arab disqualifies one from humanity. If they aren’t referring to Arabs as “camel jockeys” or “rag heads”, they’re calling them as Islamo-fascists. Along with O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck give Fox news stable of anti-Arab propagandists.

Hollywood films have been vilifying Arabs for decades. Jack Shaheen revealed, in The TV Arab, how television stereotypes Arabs as “billionaires, bombers and belly dancers”.

Even as a youngster, Shaheen was disturbed by the Arab stereotypes in children’s cartoon characters.

In Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs, a long line of degrading images – from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheiks and gun-wielding “terrorists” – have vilified Arabs since the days of silent films.

In his research, Shaheen identified more than 1150 films that defile Arabs. His newest book, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11, reveals how the film industry continues to shape American understanding of Arabs and Arab culture.

Muslim scholar Ziauddin Sardar made it clear that anti-Islamic brainwashing is not new: “From the days of Voltaire right up to 1980, thanks largely to the efforts of Enlightenment scholars, it was a general Western axiom that Islam had produced nothing of worth in philosophy, science and learning.”

That the propaganda has reached the masses should be clear from some of the slurs on the internet, examples of which are displayed here:

F**K ALL YOU SAND NIGGERS! I HOPE WE BLOW YOU ALL UP AND TAKE THE ONLY THING YOU ARE GOOD FOR OIL!

It wasn’t enough to curse Arabs. He had to shout it, writing his message in uppercase letters, revealing how effective anti-Arab propaganda has been in America.

Those who control the media control the mental attitudes of the population; Americans have been programmed to hate Arabs and Muslims and to love Israelis. How could compassionate Americans be nonchalant about their slaughter of a million Arabs in Iraq, even though they know that it was all based on lies? Decades of propaganda and brainwashing.

http://www.pballes.com

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

European inspectors report no Russian military build-up on Ukraine border

Voice of Russia | March 23, 2014

Watchdogs from several European countries have noticed no indication of a massive build-up of Russian military that would threaten the security of neighboring states, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Sunday.

According to Mr. Antonov, as many as seven inspection groups paid visits to Russian border territories over the past month. “Our facilities and deployment areas along the Russian-Ukrainian border were twice checked by the Ukrainian military,” he noted.

Monitors from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland scrutinized Russia’s military camps stationed on its borders with neighboring nations. “It must have been a simple ‘coincidence’ that the majority of these [missions] focused on the regions near the Ukrainian border,” Mr. Antonov noted.

“We were as transparent as it comes and let our partners inspect all facilities they wanted. We have nothing to hide,” the defense chief pointed out.

The Russian military went as far as allowing EU and NATO watchdogs to interrogate Russian command, takes photos of bases where personnel and military hardware were stationed and accompany them during their routine maneuvers.

“The conclusion that our partners came to after the final briefing, which is a compulsory inspection procedure, was unanimous: Russian armed forces are not involved in any manner of unannounced military maneuvers that would endanger the security of neighboring states,” Antonov underscored.

The Russian deputy defense minister urged Ukrainian and European watchdogs to update their corresponding governments on the actual situation on the Russian borders, saying a clearer picture would certainly de-escalate the situation in the region.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Tourism as a tool to erase Palestinian identity

By Jessica Purkiss | MEMO | March 22, 2014

At the entrance of a Dead Sea resort located in the West Bank, Palestinian man Hazem paid his 70 shekels admission fee to the women sitting behind the desk. “Can we camp here?” he asked. Surveying the group of internationals, she said, “Are there any Arabs in your group?” Hazem, born and bred in the West Bank city of Beit Sehour, confessed his origin to the women who replied, “We don’t let Arabs stay the night.”

Past the entrance desk, the small stretch of beach is dotted with groups of Palestinian men smoking arguila- flavoured tobacco- and heating coals for BBQ’s. All of them have paid the same entrance fee. The women behind the desk collecting their fees is Israeli and only speaks Hebrew and English, and the shop on site sells Israeli flags and Jewish relics. While this resort stands on the chunk of the Dead Sea that lies in the West Bank, the Palestinian side and its resources have been appropriated by Israel. This means all the Palestinians that visit the resort, in fact any of the three resorts in the occupied Dead Sea area, have to pay Israel to do so.

The Dead Sea, which is famous for its skin benefits, is a goldmine for those able to tap into its resources, with the extraction of mud proving to be an extremely lucrative business. Friends of the Earth Middle East claim that there are 50 cosmetic factories on the Western shore, both in the occupied Dead Sea area and in Israel proper, The Israeli cosmetic company Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories ltd. is located on the settlement of “Mitzpe Shalem,” in the occupied West Bank, and is the only cosmetic company to be licensed by Israel to mine mud in the area.

In 2007 Ahava’s annual revenues were 142 million USD. As of 2011, 60% of Ahava’s revenues were from exports, shipping its world famous creams and lotions mainly to European countries and to the United States. Despite Ahava sales propping up the settlement regime- two of the settlements in the area have considerable shares in the company- it owns three international subsidiary companies in Germany, the UK and the US.

While the annexation of the Dead Sea has clear economic benefits, the revenues of Ahava should not act as smokescreen for the gains of the Israeli authorities beyond the economic side. Encroachments of Palestinian spaces and heritage under the name of tourism are much more than this, with the Dead Sea as just one example. They are an attempt to strip Palestinian identity from these spaces.

As a PLO Negotiation Affairs department statement read, “Despite its small size, Palestine has an abundance of historical, religious and cultural heritage sites. Every inch of this land has a story to tell, every hill the scene of a battle, and every stone a monument or a tomb. One cannot understand the geography of Palestine without knowing its history and one cannot understand its history without understanding its geography.”

Herodion, Herod the Greats monumental palace built around 23-20 BC and perched on the highest hill in the area, is another example of the above. From the top of the site, the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, which lies just 5km away, is clearly visible. The Palestinian taxi-driver who dropped us off at Herodion, tells us we are in Israel now. Driving past the military base and paying entrance fees to an Israeli man, whose desk sits in a shop selling “I love Israel” and “Visit Israel” t-shirts, it’s easy to see his point.

However, Herodion lies on Palestinian territory, but like the Dead Sea, has been appropriated by Israel. The site is managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). While the stated aim of the governmental body is protecting nature, landscape and heritage in Israel, the organisation has recruited conservation for political gains. For example, there are already five “national” parks in East Jerusalem and more on the way, while West Jerusalem does not have even one. These parks, operated INPA enables the state to appropriate private Palestinian land while avoiding the international rebukes which overt settlement building brings about. Under Israeli law the state does not even have to compensate the owners for land on which national parks are built.

When asked where they think they are, some of the tourists who have shuttled off buses run by Israeli tour companies at Herodion, simply didn’t know. One woman from the US remarked, “Judging from the Israeli soldiers and the Hebrew, I would say Israel.” While her husband walked away muttering Israel defiantly, the woman returned and said in a whisper, “I suppose we are where the person with the biggest weapons wants to tell us we are. That’s not right, but I think that’s how it is.”

To the naive tourist just off the coach, he is in Israel. And while, to this same naive tourist, whether he is Israel, “Judea and Samaria” or the Palestinian territories seems unimportant when at a historical site that stretches back thousands of years, Israel is asserting its connection with the land, while simultaneously wiping the other’s connection off the map. To this tourist, the systematic obliteration, Judaization, annexation and confiscation of Palestinian sites turns Palestine into simply a collection of sites in the desert owned by Israel, surrounded by Arab “villages.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism map has aimed to do precisely this. In 2009, the ministry completely wiped the West Bank and any Palestinian areas from its materials. Mandatory Palestine was portrayed without any borders or demarcations, while all maps omitted Palestinian areas and towns. Today, instead of defining a line that is the West Bank, the Ministry of Tourism has shaded the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority in pink, and the area of joint control in a lighter shade of pink, leaving around 60% of the West Bank which falls under area C to blur into Israel.

After visiting Herodion, most of the tourists are likely to move onto nearby Bethlehem. Like Herodion, many tourists, having booked holy land tours from home, believe they are in Israel. Either way, they tend to make only short organised day trips to visit the holy sites, spending the bulk of their money in Israel. Whilst Bethlehem pulls in thousands of tourist annually, Palestine hasn’t been able to fully utilize the area. According to reports by the PA’s Ministry of Tourism and the Bureau of Statistics, in 2007 509,000 tourists came to Bethlehem, but only 88,000 stayed in the city’s hotels, while Palestinian Authority Tourism Minister Kholoud Daibes contends that Israel collects 90% of pilgrim-related revenue.

Meanwhile, Palestinian tours guides or transportation companies have not been able to enter Israel since 2000. From over 240 tourist guides licensed to work all over Palestine and Israel, only 42 have permits to guide in Israel, which are renewed periodically and without guarantee. These restrictions on movement severely hinder the development of a domestic tourism industry. For Israel, this means the sphere in which tourists may meet Palestinians that are not the terrorists from the headlines, and be introduced to another side of a narrative is successfully limited.

To the Palestinians, this systematic obliteration, Judaization, annexation and confiscation of Palestinian sites, are attempt to take away their connection to the land and its history, in the process impinging on their right to self-determination, freedom, independence, and ebbing at the construction of their national identity.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Illegitimate Palestinian Leadership Can Sign Away Rights

By Zachariah Sammour | Al-Shabaka | March 15, 2014

The latest round of US-driven negotiations has yet to engender a significant, organized response from Palestinians in the Diaspora. Whereas some Palestinian civil society actors and organizations within the Occupied Palestinian Territory have made their views known through various forms of popular activism, Palestinians in the Diaspora seem surprisingly disengaged.

This lack of organized public engagement is particularly troubling when one considers the risks that these talks present for the Palestinian people generally, and for those in the Diaspora in particular. Details have emerged in recent weeks as to the shape that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “framework agreement” is likely to take, both in reports by Palestinian officials and in columns by U.S. analysts: Not only would there be a truncated Palestinian state with significant Israeli controls remaining in some fashion, but the Palestinian right of return would be eliminated entirely.

Given the gravity of the decisions that could be made on behalf of Palestinians – including an “end of claims” arising out of the conflict – one would expect a more forceful response in responding to these proposals. It is possible that many believe that the limited political legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization/Palestinian Authority (PLO/PA) directly diminishes its capacity to make politically effective decisions on behalf of all Palestinians.

But political legitimacy and political effectivity should not be conflated. In international law, and in international politics more generally, there is no necessary link between legitimacy and effectivity, or more specifically between representation and political agency. One only has to look at the actions of Palestine’s neighbors. The regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and a host of other Arab countries are hardly able to claim to represent the peoples of those respective states any more than the PLO/PA can currently claim to represent the Palestinians. Nonetheless, they are universally recognized as having the authority to make binding decisions on behalf of their citizens.

The simple point is that decision-making power, at least in the external arena of international politics, does not depend in any way upon the representative credentials of the decision maker. If the PLO/PA was to come to a final settlement with Israel tomorrow, and, in doing so, purported to “end all claims” of the Palestinian people including the right of return, states and international bodies – even those like the International Court of Justice – could conceivably accept its decision as having been made on behalf of all Palestinians. That the decision would have been reached through an illegitimate exercise of political authority would not matter. And, without any mechanisms through which to assert otherwise, for all intents and purposes, the decision would be definitive.

It is clear that Palestinians are fast approaching a juncture at which decisions of extreme national importance may be taken. The possible grave implications of these decisions require an immediate and sustained response from all Palestinians, including those in the Diaspora who may stand to lose their historic claim of return to the homeland. While it is beyond the scope of this commentary to propose a concrete strategy for popular action, some initial steps could include:

  • Organize locally and establish popular forums for Palestinians to discuss the likely terms of any agreement, their implications, and the extent to which such an agreement would be palatable.
  • Establish and strengthen alliances and networks of Palestinians across the globe that are unified around common goals and demands.
  • Establish and communicate to the PA/PLO and international stakeholders the red lines and basic demands that must respected in any agreement signed in the name of the Palestinian people must respect.
  • Identify strategies to increase public pressure on Palestinian negotiators to hold to those red lines and to pursue national goals and aspirations.
  • Continue to build up Palestinian sources of power to promote their rights, including through support to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it upholds international law, education and media outreach about Palestinian rights, and alliances with other people’s movements for human rights.

These are concrete and immediate steps that Palestinians may take to increase public pressure on the PLO/PA during the course of the negotiations. It is clear, however, that these actions cannot serve as a substitute for the far more difficult task of re-establishing a robust, popular, and effective national movement that can provide the Palestinians with a representative and accountable leadership. It is essential, therefore, that any popular mobilization that Palestinians organize contributes to re-establishing a truly national movement that is inclusive and serves to connect Palestinians all over the world.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment