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Hungry for land: small farmers feed the world – with less than a quarter of all farmland

GRAIN | May 28, 2014

Governments and international agencies frequently boast that small farmers control the largest share of the world’s agricultural land. When the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization inaugurated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, he sang the praises of family farmers but didn’t once mention the need for land reform. Instead, he announced that family farms already manage most of the world’s farmland – a whopping 70%, according to his team.

But a new review of the data carried out by GRAIN reveals that the opposite is true. Small farms, which produce most of the world’s food, are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland – or less than one fifth if you leave out China and India.

“We are fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of the rich and powerful,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN. “The overwhelming majority of farming families today have less than two hectares to cultivate and that share is shrinking. If we do nothing to reverse this trend, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.”

Marina Dos Santos of the Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST), and of La Via Campesina, states: “Today, the peasantry is criminalised, taken to court and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. Currently, there are an alarming numbers of deaths that go unpunished. States have created legal concepts such as terrorism and sabotage to intimidate our struggle. Every day we are exposed to systematic expulsion from our land. This affects not only peasants fighting to stay on the land, but also many other small farmers and indigenous peoples who are the target of greedy foreign interests. We want the land in order to live and to produce, as these are our basic rights against land grabbing corporations who seek only speculation and profit.”

“People need to understand that if the current processes of land concentration continue, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on,” said GRAIN’s Camila Montecinos. “The concentration of fertile agricultural land in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.”

GRAIN’s report also provides new data that show that small farmers still provide most of the world’s food, and that they are often much more productive than large corporate farms. If all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. Women are the major food producers, but their role remains unrecorded and marginalised.

The international agencies keep on reminding us that we need to produce more food to feed the growing population. But how much more food could be produced almost immediately if small farmers had access to more land and could work in a supportive policy environment, rather than under the siege conditions they are facing today?

“The vast majority of farms in Zimbabwe belong to small holders and their average farmsize has increased as a result of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. Small farmers in the country now produce over 90% of diverse agricultural food crops, while they only provided 60-70% of the national food before land redistribution. More women own land in their own right, which is key to food sovereignty everywhere,” said Elizabeth Mpofu, General coordinator of La Via Campesina.

We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems. Something peasant organisations and landless people’s movements have long been fighting for.


GRAIN’s new report, Hungry for land: small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland provides an in depth review of the data on farm structures and food production worldwide and comes to the following 6 central conclusions:

1. The vast majority of farms in the world today are small and getting smaller

Due to a myriad of forces, average farm sizes have shrunk dramatically over the past decades, particularly in Asia and Africa.

2. Small farms are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland

Despite what the UN and others report, small farms occupy less than 25% of the world’s farmland today – just 17%, if we exclude India and China.

3. We’re fast losing farms and farmers in many places, while big farms are getting bigger

One major reason why small farms are disappearing is the rapid growth of monoculture plantations. In the last 50 years, 140 million hectares – well more than all the farmland in China – have been taken over for soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane alone.

4. Small farmers continue to be the major food producers in the world

By definition, peasant agriculture prioritises food production for local and national markets as well as for farmers’ own families – not commodities or export crops. GRAIN compiled staggering statistics that show how, even with so little land, small farms produce the bulk of many countries’ food supply.

5. Small farms are technically more productive than big farms

Industrial farms have enormous power, clout and resources, but small farms almost everywhere outperform big farms in terms of productivity. If all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. If Russia’s big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.

6. The majority of small farmers are women, yet their contributions are unrecognised and marginalised

Women’s immense contribution to farming and food production is not captured in official statistics and they are discriminated against when it comes to controlling land in most countries.

The report is accompanied by illustrative maps and a fully-referenced dataset. Available for download at: http://www.grain.org/e/4929.

More on the farmers’ struggle for land: “Land is life! La Via Campesina and the Struggle for Land” at: http://viacampesina.org/downloads/pdf/en/EN-notebook5.pdf.

Contacts

Mr Henk Hobbelink, Spain (EN, ES, NL): +34933011381, henk@grain.org

Ms Camila Montecinos, Chile (EN, ES): +56222224437, camila@grain.org

Ms Elizabeth Mpofu, Zimbabwe (EN): + +2634576221, nkbnyoni@yahoo.co.uk

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | Leave a comment

A new take on land reform in Zimbabwe

IRIN | February 5, 2013

LONDON/HARARE  – More than 10 years after the chaotic and often violent farm invasions that accompanied Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform programme, a new book argues that the redistribution programme has dramatically improved the lives of thousands of smallholder farmers and their families.

Starting in 2000, the government implemented an initiative to acquire 11 million hectares of white-owned farmland and redistribute it on a massive scale; the programme was often carried out in the form of farm invasions led by frustrated war veterans and supporters of President Robert Mugabe. By its conclusion, only 0.4 percent of farmland remained in the hands of white commercial farmers, and smallholder farmers dominated the agricultural sector.

The land reform programme was followed by years of drought, hyperinflation and an economic meltdown.

Thirteen years later and more than 8,000km away, it still raises strong emotions. At a recent event hosted by London’s Chatham House at which authors of the new book, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, defended their work, the hall was packed, and a polite but persistent group of anti-Mugabe protesters occupied the pavement outside.

The book avoids passing judgement on the often violent manner in which the programme was executed. “This is not a book about what might have been, could have been, or should have been,” write authors Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart. Instead, it focuses on the results of a study they carried out in Mashonaland, a region of northern Zimbabwe covering three provinces, which found that many of the ‘fast-track’ farmers are faring much better than has been widely assumed.

Despite receiving very little government assistance, “we saw that these farmers had a real passion for farming. We found that farmers are making investments, building houses and barns… and buying farm implements,” said Manjengwa. “They are making the land their own, and they are becoming serious commercial farmers.”

Finding success

When Samson Pfumo, a 52-year-old teacher from Harare, applied for and received a 60-hectare plot in Marondera District through the land redistribution programme, his expectations were low.

“My brother, a war veteran, encouraged me to apply to the government for a piece of land, but I was pessimistic because of the controversy that surrounded the land reform programme,” Pfumo told IRIN. “When I got an offer letter for the plot [in 2005], I only set up a small mud-and-dagga [hut] and hardly visited the farm.”

When the economy started improving in 2009, after the formation of a coalition government, Pfumo developed a keener interest in farming and started raising pigs. A year later, he had 60 pigs, some of which he sold to buy farming implements and to start growing maize for feed.

Today, he has five large pig pens housing more than 300 pigs, which he periodically slaughters for sale, with each pig fetching an average of US$150. He is also rearing about 500 chicks for sale and is considering venturing into tobacco farming after noting that many resettled farmers have been making good profits from the crop.

“I managed to buy a truck to ferry meat to my clients and a luxury car. My two sons are now studying at reputable universities in South Africa because I can afford it, thanks to the piggery project,” said Pfumo, who has left teaching and now lives on the farm with his wife and mother.

Controversial progress

Manjengwa and her colleagues found that even the less ambitious among the new farmers surveyed, who mainly received smaller plots of five or six hectares, had greatly improved their standard of living. After being mostly poor, landless and unemployed prior to resettlement, virtually all of them were able to grow enough food for their families, and to sell the surplus to pay for their children’s school fees. But many were doing much better than that, producing significant quantities of maize, tobacco and other crops for sale, and building up capital in the form of livestock, farm buildings and equipment. They were also starting to employ labour.

The issue of labour is contentious because so many farm workers lost their jobs and their homes when the old white-owned farms were broken up; some are still homeless and unemployed. However, Hanlon, Manjengwa and Smart estimate that around 550,000 family members and 350,000 paid labourers now work full-time on land that previously employed 170,000 workers.

Charles Taffs, president of Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union, reminded those at the meeting at Chatham House that the workers now being hired are not the same ones who were driven off the commercial farms. He also asserted that the figures presented in the study did not add up.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural production experienced a dramatic drop following the upheavals of 2000, but according to the authors, it is now returning to the levels of the 1990s. This is despite the fact that many rely on a much more labour-intensive form of farming than that used by the earlier white commercial farmers.

The authors also point out that, although many of the white-owned commercial farms were efficient and productive, many others were struggling and had far more land than they could use; some of the most fertile land in the country had gone uncultivated. The new smallholders have brought much of that unused land into cultivation.

Dilemma

Manjengwa and her colleagues are not the first to suggest that Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme has achieved a number of positive results. A 10-year study of land reform in Masvingo Province, led by Ian Scoones from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and published in 2010, challenged a number of the “myths” surrounding fast-track land reform, finding that many of the 400 households sampled were employing labour and expanding their farming operations.

“The suggestion that the fast-track land reform programme was not an unmitigated disaster presents dilemmas about whether to accept this growing body of evidence and risk endorsing the methods used to achieve the asset transfer,” commented Admos Chimhowu of Manchester University’s Institute for Development Policy and Management, who pointed out that neighbouring South Africa has yet to find a solution to its land reform challenges.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

‘Taken under control’: GPS sites in Russia can’t be used now for ‘military purposes’

RT | June 1, 2014

Russia has “taken under control” the operation of 11 American GPS sites and ensured they cannot be used for military purposes, as Washington and Moscow show no progress in negotiations on setting up Russian GLONASS stations on US territory.

May 31 was the last day when Russia and the US could have reached a deal on the issue.

“In compliance with the Russian government’s instruction, Roscosmos and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations implemented measures on June 1, 2014, which excluded the use of information from global seismographic network stations working on signals from the GPS system and located on the territory of the Russian Federation for purposes not stipulated by the existing agreements, including for military purposes,” Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Sunday morning.

The statement referring to agreements between Russia and the US, which date back to 1993 and 2001, stirred up some confusion in the media with some outlets reporting GPS stations work has been suspended, while others said they continued to work. Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the official behind the move elaborated: “We have worked out and implemented measures that exclude the use of these [GPS] stations for military purposes. Now they are under our full control,” Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries, wrote in his Twitter micro blog.

The Differential GPS ground stations located on Russia’s soil will continue to operate under existing agreements to fulfill civil purposes. The so-called DGPS provides differential corrections to a GPS receiver in order to improve position accuracy.

The correction is received by the roving GPS receiver via either a radio signal or a satellite signal, depending on whether a source is land-based or satellite-based, and applied to the position it is calculating.

According to Rogozin, Moscow has initiated talks with the United States on GLONASS deployment on the US territory.

If agreement is reached by the August-31 deadline, “new decisions will be taken.”

“We hope that by the end of summer, these talks will bring a solution that will allow our cooperation to be restored on the basis of parity and proportionality,” Rogozin said back on May 13, the day when he first announced plans to shut down 11 American correctional GPS stations.

The development of the GLONASS global navigation system began in the Soviet Union, which put the very first satellite of the system into orbit on October 12, 1982. The system was officially commissioned on September 24, 1993.

Today GLONASS is supported on products from world-leading handheld device producers, such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Motorola and others, simultaneously with GPS.

So far there are 14 monitor stations in Russia, one in Brazil and one in Antarctica at Russia’s Bellingshausen station.

More GLONASS stations are expected to be built in the near future: eight in Russia, two in Brazil, one in Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, Spain, Vietnam and an additional station in the Antarctic.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Le Pen on Ukraine crisis: US pursuing own interests, not those of EU

RT | June 1, 2014

The EU is responsible for the developments in Ukraine, French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen said in an interview, stressing the bloc should have its own opinion on global events and not slavishly follow the America’s lead.

“The EU added fuel to the fire by offering the partnership to the country where half of the population is looking to the East,” Le Pen told Der Spiegel newspaper.

Le Pen said she supports federalization in crisis-torn Ukraine, where the coup-appointed government has launched a massive military operation in the country’s eastern regions. The offensive has already claimed dozens of lives, both among the militias and local civilians. Schools, a kindergarten and hospitals in several cities have come under fire.

The French leader warned the EU against falling into Washington’s steps, as those have nothing to do with Europe’s interests.

“The United States is trying to expand their influence in the world and first of all in Europe. They are pursuing their own interests, not ours,” Le Pen said.

She went as far as to call the EU “an anti-democratic monster,” where people’s right to self-determination is stolen.

“I want to stop it [the EU] getting fatter, continuing to breathe, touching everything with its paws and reaching into all areas of our legislation with its tentacles,” she said.

Earlier Le Pen repeatedly stated that Russia is being unfairly “demonized” and that the campaign against the Russian political administration has been cooked up at the highest levels of EU leadership, with the implicit support of the US.

“I am surprised a Cold War on Russia has been declared in the European Union,” she said at a meeting with Russia’s State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin in April. “It’s not in line with traditional, friendly relations, or with the economic interests of our country or EU countries and harms future relations.”

Le Pen’s National Front far-right party in France has been steadily gaining popularity and scored a triumphant success in the latest EU elections by gaining around 25 percent of the votes.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

“They want to start a religious war; we want to extinguish it” – Mufti of Syria

By Eva Bartlett | Crescent International | June 1, 2014

Leading figures in Syria such as the Mufti of Syria who lost his own son to a terrorist attack, want to extinguish the fires of hatred. The overwhelming majority of Syrians agree, isolating the foreign-backed mercenaries inside and outside Syria.

Most news accounts of Syria paint a desolate, sectarian picture of the country where people in areas secured by the Syrian army are miserable and where people, above all, want to see President Bashar al-Asad gone. During my visit, I found the exact opposite. In particular, I found widespread, and usually ardent, support for the president.

I entered Syria as part of an international Peace Delegation, comprising more than 40 people who believe in a political, Syrian-led solution for Syria. In the course of one week, we visited Latakia, Homs, and areas of Damascus, sat with the top religious leaders and numerous grassroots leaders. We heard testimonies from survivors of massacres — Haram, Kasab, Maaloula — and met with various internally-displaced from Yarmouk.

After the week had passed, I stayed on independently, moving freely on my own throughout Damascus, engaging with various strata of Damascene life.

The streets of the three cities I saw were far busier and more alive than I had expected possible and, aside from the mortars fired daily by armed insurgents on Damascus and environs, I felt safe and welcomed. All over, I saw groups of mixed faiths comfortably chatting, sharing meals and shisha, and proudly answering “I am Syrian” to my taboo question, “Are you Muslim, Druze, Christian…?”

Damascus, unsurprisingly, has upscale shops and historic markets, but also newsstands with papers found in any North American city, including those which have propagandized so heavily against Syria’s government and for the need for Western intervention.

Yarmouk has now, strangely, all but disappeared from mainstream reporting. Is it because the story is old, or because the actions of these armed insurgents controlling vast areas of Yarmouk have been so documented that it is difficult to any longer purvey the standard line: that the government is assaulting its own people? Still suffering under the presence of largely foreign militants, with a heavy presence of Jabhat al-Nusrah, Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups there since December 2012, numerous attempts at cease-fire have been foiled. The Palestinians and Syrians (yes, there are Syrians in Yarmouk) continue to need food, medicine, hospitals, and the exit of the armed groups.

At the edge of the camp, where Yarmouk and Palestine streets converge, I could see some of the massive damage: shells of cars, houses and a hospital with walls studded with machine gun bullets and mortars. But venturing beyond the concrete barriers would have been inviting sniper bullets to the head. “For two kilometres in that direction, it’s completely open. If you walk another five meters, you’ll be in the snipers’ scope,” security told me, himself not going any farther.

Abu Kifah Ghazzi, a PFLP spokesman, outlined events of the past two years relating to Yarmouk, noting that there are Palestinians from Yarmouk alongside the Syrian army fighting against the militias and for Yarmouk. I ask about food aid and starving residents. “The civilians are suffering terribly, but the armed gangs have ample food,” he said, adding, “Food aid has entered Yarmouk, but the militias often took it.”

In the most recent attack on aid distribution, on May 13, one person was killed and another injured when a centre for humanitarian aid distribution was targeted, the Daily Star reported. We also visited two different schools now housing displaced Palestinians and Syrians from Yarmouk. Their words were the same. “The terrorists took over the camp, took over our houses, and stole our food. We want the camp back. Tell your governments to tell those terrorists to leave Yarmouk.”

The growing trend of Syrian fighters laying down their arms in exchange for amnesty from the government was most notable in Homs, now secured by the Syrian army. This “Musalahah” (Reconciliation) movement, dubbed the “third way,” looks toward a political solution for Syria.

Amnesty and the laying down of arms doesn’t apply to the over 5,000 foreign fighters, nor have they shown any intention to stop shelling, kidnappings, beheadings and the countless other atrocities largely void from many Western reports on Syria.

As of April 2014, “1416 fighters have laid down their weapons. At first, the fighters were afraid that they would go to jail, but now, every day people are asking for reconciliation. Yesterday 10, the day before 29, I feel that peace is close,” said a priest in Homs. The highest numbers of those laying down weapons are from Homs, a city which was often dubbed in the media as the “heart of the revolution.” It seems these “rebels” realize that the ideology they thought they were fighting for is not shared by their armed takfiri brothers.

The mortars being fired at Damascus by militants in the Jobar district east of Damascus (and until recently the Mliha, now secured by the Syrian army) are not guided, yet they are designed to create maximum damage. One day I got a lesson on mortars from two men in the National Defense Forces (NDF). Most mortars the armed groups are using are homemade. Some have just enough explosives to make them fly, with as many pieces of metal, nails, sharp bits stuffed inside, to cause wider injury when exploded.

Online videos document the insurgents making these crude but deadly shells, and the firing of them toward Damascus. While the Old City has been particularly hard-hit, the mortars also reach central and western areas of Damascus. On April 15, insurgents in Jobar shelled the Manar elementary school, killing one child and injuring at least 60 more. They shelled a kindergarten the same day, injuring three more children. On April 29, four mortars hit Shaghour district, killing 12 students and wounding at least 50.

Deputy-Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad had said earlier this year (January 2014), “In the past 4 months, terrorists fired 12,000 shells,” not including the mortars in other areas of Syria. A friend, a member of Syria’s rugby team, was one day at a match in Beirut, another day in the hospital, injured by shrapnel from these mortar attacks. At the time of his injury, he had been assisting civilians injured in a prior attack in the area.

Staying in Bab Sharqi, the East Gate area of the Old City, I got a more personal lesson on mortars, some as close as 50 metres from where I stayed, a residential area. On another occasion, outside the walls of the Old City, from the direction of insurgent-held Jobar, sniper bullets flew within a few feet of me. So while the city has a secure and strangely normal feel to it, the attacks of these militants are constant.

Driving to Homs, the roads were secured by military checkpoints, cars were searched for explosives and weapons. Evidence of the past three years of fighting is everywhere. In Homs City, I saw the site of a double car bombing just the week prior, which killed 25 civilians. Houses and businesses torn apart, families of martyrs told of the bombings, mid-afternoon, timed one after another, to ensure hitting any rescuers. These people were some of the most ardent supporters of President al-Asad and the Syrian army, again saying al-Asad is the only means of unifying Syria, and the army is protecting them. Having endured years of car-bombings and mercenary snipings, they would know best.

In Latakia, northwest of Damascus and closer to the Turkish border, to some of the current hot spots like Aleppo, I was surprised by the sense of normalcy: people picnicking, busy seaside streets as the Sun set. Lilly Martin, an American 22 years in Syria, mentioned that yes, Latakia is in general safe, but that they are assaulted from afar, from the Turkish border, by long-range missiles.

As Latakia is largely unscathed, it is host to refugees from areas being assaulted by militant groups, including the displaced from the village of Kasab, attacked March 21 by mercenaries originating from, and with the support of Turkey. The mercenaries continue to hold Kasab, and reports cite the desecration of churches there.

In Latakia, Homs, Damascus, and on the roadside, posters of President al-Asad are everywhere… the President in a suit, to the President in army fatigues and sunglasses. The support voiced by the various civilians I met in all three cities is not exclusive to minorities or ‘Alawites or Ba‘th party members. In fact, within Syria, there are a number of registered opposition parties who, while seeking change in the country, support President al-Asad.

At a joint meeting with the peace delegation, I met members of six different leftist opposition parties who do not support foreign intervention, but instead support the reconciliation movement. They resoundingly agreed that this “conflict” was a Syrian issue, to be dealt with by Syrians in Syria, that the foreign mercenaries had to go, and that elections were imperative. Despite their differing sentiments three years ago, they said they would now vote for Bashar al-Asad this June.

“In Syria we have real opposition parties, demanding reforms for the Syrian people. We are the real opposition, rooted in the streets of Syria,” said Shaykh Nawaf ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Trad al-Milhim, head of the People’s Party. Berwin Ibrahim, chair of the National Youth Party for Justice and Development said, “We don’t agree with the regime on many things, but we insist that our homeland comes first. We have corruption in the government. But that is like any government. The conspiracy, terrorism, and interference from Western countries have united supporters of the government and the opposition,” she said.

One of the opposition who had formally called for al-Asad to step down, Mohammad Abu Qasem, Secretary General of the Solidarity Party, said, “What’s happening in Syria is international terrorism, with many countries interfering in Syria. Since the elections were announced, the insurgents started working harder in Kasab and in Aleppo.”

Feminist activist, Suheir Sarmini, Deputy Secretary General of the Syrian National Youth Party, said, “President Obama and Congress have armed these gangs to kill our children, our people. Tell Obama and Congress to stop killing the Syrian people and not to interfere in Syrian sovereignty.”

In contrast to accusations that no “real” opposition could exist within Syria, Mazen al-Akhrass, a member of Syria’s NDF and a political analyst, pointed out that two very vocal (and far more critical than those I met) opposition members remain in Syria, unscathed. “Louay Hussein and Hassan ‘Abd al-‘Azeem are very well known and extremely against the regime, and they ask for more than ‘reforms.’ Yet they have been living in Damascus — the ‘stronghold of the regime’ — during the events, and their lives weren’t threatened. They are not in jail, and at this point they seem to have settled for partial reforms as a step toward full regime change.”

We met with Syria’s Grand Mufti, Dr. Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun. He spoke of the need for reconciliation and forgiveness amongst Syrians. He is notable for walking the talk: Shaykh Hassoun’s 21-year-old son Sarya was assassinated in October 2011, on the same day that it was announced he’d be engaged. During the funeral, while sobbing, the Mufti called for forgiveness and reconciliation, even for those who murdered his son. “All of the churches and masjids that have been destroyed, we can rebuild. But who will bring back our children? Who will bring back my son Sarya? When we have violation against any child, it is a violation against God.”

He mentioned that in March he had been granted a prestigious Italian peace prize, by The Ducci Foundation, for his non-sectarian preaching of interfaith peace. But the Mufti never got to Rome. “I was granted a visa for only ten days. They were afraid I’d stay longer. But Europeans are among those killing our people. … I reject this [kind of] ‘democracy.’ We in Syria are not Sunni or Shi‘i or ‘Alawi nor Muslim nor Christian. We are human beings and must be respected. They want to start a religious war. We are going to extinguish this fire.”

On a personal note, I would echo the Mufti’s call, and those of so many others I met in Syria. Come to Syria, see for yourselves. Very quickly you can get a taste of the senseless mortars, and the horrific testimonies of those assaulted by foreign mercenaries and takfiri ideologists. But also of the strength and resistance that is the Syrian people, who don’t intend any time soon to fall to occupation, and who will vote for President al-Asad in June.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | Leave a comment

Israeli Occupation Forces Kill Two Palestinians, Kidnap 370 In May

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By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | June 1, 2014

In its monthly report on Israeli violations, the Ahrar Center for Detainees’ Studies and Human Rights has reported that Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians in May, and kidnapped 370.

The Center said that the army shot and killed Nadim Nuwwara, 17, and Mohammad Abu Thaher, 20, near the Ofer Israeli military roadblock, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The two were killed on May 15, during Nakba Day protests.

Israeli army sharpshooters killed the two following clashes with the army as the Palestinians marked the Nakba Day. Video footage showed the two walking away, with their backs to the army location, when they were killed.

As for arrests carried out by the Israeli occupation army, the Center said that 370 Palestinians were kidnapped in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

In Jerusalem, soldiers kidnapped 118 Palestinians, the highest number of arrests in May, while 86 Palestinians were kidnapped in the Hebron district, 40 in Nablus, 30 in Bethlehem, 27 in Ramallah, 27 in Jenin, 16 in Qalqilia, 8 in Salfit, 4 in Tulkarem, and two in Tubas.

In addition, 12 Palestinians were kidnapped in the besieged Gaza Strip; three of them were kidnapped near the border fence, and nine were Palestinian fishers were kidnapped by the Israeli Navy in Palestinian territorial waters.

Also in May, the army kidnapped five Palestinian women in different parts of occupied Palestine, and released three of them, while two remained under interrogation.

Head of the Ahrar Center, Fuad al-Khoffash, stated that Israel is escalating the arrests, especially amongst young Palestinians, and that Israeli interrogators continue to use cruel interrogation methods, and extreme torture, in direct violation of International Law and all related human rights treaties.

He added that the arrests are happening while Administrative Detainees, held by Israel under arbitrary orders without charges or trial, are ongoing with their hunger strike despite the fact that many detainees are facing life-threatening conditions, and serious complications.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Israel denies Gaza unity government ministers entrance to West Bank

Al-Akhbar | June 1, 2014

Israel has denied three future Palestinian Authority ministers from the Gaza Strip entry to the West Bank ahead of the unveiling of a new unity government, public radio said on Sunday.

The head of Israel’s military administration in the Palestinian territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, had informed the Palestinians that the three would not be permitted to cross from Gaza to the West Bank, the radio said.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the line-up of a unity government would be announced Monday, following a delay over who would head the foreign ministry.

He also said Israel had informed the Palestinians that it would “boycott the government.”

“Israel wants to punish us because we have agreed with Hamas on this government,” he said.

And he also warned in remarks late on Saturday that the Palestinians would respond to every punitive step taken by Israel in respect to the new government.

The three ministers elect had applied to cross from Gaza to the West Bank on Thursday, but their application was immediately rejected, a senior Palestinian official responsible for coordinating exits and entries told AFP.

“We sent the application in on Thursday and explained that these officials are to be sworn in as ministers in Ramallah, but Israel immediately rejected the application,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for Palestinian civilian coordination, refused to comment on the matter, as did the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Netanyahu on Sunday warned against any international rush to recognize a Palestinian government.

“I call on all responsible elements in the international community not to rush to recognize a Palestinian government which has Hamas as part of it and which is dependent on Hamas,” Netanyahu, who has claimed such an administration would be a front for the Islamist group, told his cabinet.

Gaza’s Islamist ruling party and the Western-backed Palestine Liberation Organization, which is dominated by Abbas’s Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement in April to end years of rivalry.

Under the deal, the sides agreed to work to form an “independent government” of technocrats, paving the way for long-delayed elections.

Israel denounced it as a deathblow to peace hopes and said it would not negotiate with any government backed by Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of the Zionist state.

However, Palestinians argued that Israel had already doomed the peace talk process by reneging on an agreement to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, and by its continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

With the promised government to be sworn in at a ceremony on Monday, Israel appeared to be making good on its threats.

Speaking late on Saturday, Abbas said Israel was looking to punish the Palestinians for overcoming their years-long internal political differences.

“Israel wants to punish us for agreeing with Hamas on this government,” he said, explaining that Israeli officials had informed him that the Netanyahu administration would “boycott the government the moment it is announced.”

But the Palestinians would have an answer for every Israeli move, he warned.

“Each Israeli step will have a proper Palestinian response,” he warned, without elaborating.

“We will take everything step-by-step, we will not be the ones to react first.”

He appeared to be alluding to Palestinian intentions to seek further recognition for their promised state in the international diplomatic arena.

Such moves were put on hold for nearly all of the nine-month US-led peace talks, which collapsed in late April, but resumed after Israel blocked the promised release of two-dozen Palestinian prisoners.

The new government, which will pave the way for long-overdue legislative and presidential elections, will be chaired by Rami Hamdallah, who is currently serving as prime minister in the Fatah-dominated West Bank administration.

Israel has withheld tax revenues from Abbas’s aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, in retaliation for his signing in April of international conventions and treaties after Israel reneged on a promised release of Palestinian prisoners.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Al-Sabirin: a new resistance movement in Gaza

By Hani Ibrahim | Al-Akhbar | May 31, 2014

The flag and logo of an organization that was launched a few days ago in the Gaza Strip suggest a Hezbollah now exists in Gaza. The organization is called al-Sabirin (the patient) for the Victory of Palestine and its logo bears a striking similarity to Hezbollah’s logo. Local opponents accuse it of being a Shia movement but its officials deny the charge and stress that they coordinate with other factions to organize their positioning in the resistance.

Gaza: Despite all the major turning points in the lives of Palestinians over the past 10 years, no party has offered a new political vision except a few youth organizations that have been stamped out by factional strife. Domestic strife has primarily been between Fatah and Hamas as each organization has aimed to control the political and economic map in the occupied West Bank and Gaza over the past seven years.

The social makeup in Gaza, which prides itself on its strong family ties, was impacted by factional differences and clashes. However, on a religious level, Gaza does not tolerate diversity as Sunni Muslims constitute the overwhelming majority. Therefore, the creation of a new organization poses “serious concerns regarding the path it is going to take.” Al-Sabirin talks about fighting Israel but its slogan carries connotations that make some view it as a “sectarian movement.” The circumstances and timing that the organization chose to announce its creation further complicate the matter.There is the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas while the Islamic Jihad expressed reservations regarding some of the terms dealing with the weapons of the Resistance. In the Arab world, there are tensions simmering against a sectarian and ethnic backdrop under the banner of the Arab Spring. In this context, the new organization puts itself in a position that raises a lot of questions and is even subject to numerous accusations.

Sources from al-Sabirin say that they are “well aware of the difficulty of the Palestinian and regional circumstances,” that is why the organization is presenting itself as a “Palestinian resistance movement that seeks to free all of Palestine and does not believe in any negotiated agreements or even long-term truces with Israel.” Nevertheless, it announced its creation after the death of one of its cadres (Nizar Issa) in an explosion they said was the result of a manufacturing error. It was forced to declare itself so it can claim responsibility for him but the organization pointed out that they have been operating for years.

An al-Sabirin spokesperson, known as Abu Yousef, addresses the question of their sectarian affiliation. He tells Al-Akhbar: “We believe in Islamic unity and we reject any sectarian discourse. Whoever raises this issue serves our enemies the Zionists and the global arrogance that stands behind it which seeks to fragment and divide this nation.” However, he added, “we do not deny any of our members the freedom to choose the sect according to which they worship God within the context of the sects recognized by Islamic law. But highlighting this issue as though it were a problem is the strategy of those who try to exploit differences and sow the seeds of sedition.”

He continued: “The similarity between the logos is not a reason to accuse us of being Shia. The logos of resistance movements are similar to each other. The logo we chose includes common symbols such as the rifle that is firmly gripped by the hand, the map of Palestine with a mark for Jerusalem and a reference to planet Earth because we are advocates of peace and humanism.”

The Palestinian resistance had spawned in the 1960s more than 27 military and political organizations. Some of them have survived until today while others have become less important. Some organizations ceased to exist altogether and others turned to political activism. Each landmark juncture in the history of the struggle against Israel was characterized by the declaration of a new faction. The Arab defeat after al-Nakba led to the founding of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian National Liberation Movement also known as Fatah. With the decline of the communist movement in the region, the PFLP’s role declined and so did the role of Fatah after it left Beirut and became distant from the geographic region surrounding Palestine.

Before Fatah turned to political action, the first intifada (1987) which began as a popular movement shored up two Islamist resistance movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With the start of the second intifada, Fatah – armed with a quasi-official decision – returned to military struggle through al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Ahmed Abu al-Rish Brigades. But President Mahmoud Abbas diminished the role and presence of the former and the latter disintegrated. Since then, no Palestinian organization with a new political program has been declared, except for small military organizations.

A Hezbollah connection?

Al-Sabirin’s official spokesperson talked about their relationship with Hezbollah, especially after the controversy that erupted regarding the identity of the organization among Palestinians who received the news on social media: “There is no connection between us and Hezbollah. It is a Lebanese organization and we are a Palestinian movement.” He added: “We agree with our brothers in Hezbollah because we have chosen the same path, that is the path of resistance, we belong to the same axis, we confront the same enemy and we meet on the path of liberating Palestine. That, however, does not mean that we are opposed to dealing with them in order to learn from their experience and the expertise of other organizations.”

In 2008, an organization called the Palestinian Hezbollah was declared in the West Bank but the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas met this move with skepticism. This new faction, however, which described itself as “Sunni Jihadi Islamist and opposed to the political process,” did not last for long and no one has heard from them again. In addition, a military cell in Gaza named the Imad Mughniyeh Groups declared its responsibility for several operations. Eventually, it became evident that this cell was associated with Fatah.

Linking these organizations to Iran and Hezbollah is a very sensitive subject in Gaza. That is why some Arab and Israeli media outlets try to associate resistance movements with certain sectarian situations. Such as the incident years ago when Palestinian police affiliated with the Hamas government attacked a group that was holding a consolation session on the 40-day memorial for Hussein in northern Gaza. The city of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip witnessed in the past months fist fights and armed clashes between the followers of a Salafi cleric who regularly attacked the Syrian regime, Iran, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad members before Islamic Jihad contained the situation.

Security sources familiar with the coordination effort between Palestinian factions told Al-Akhbar that a meeting was held between al-Sabirin and Hamas to sort out the former’s status as a Palestinian resistance movement that is going to work out of Gaza, as long as it is committed to the general framework of the agreements between the various organizations. But they refused to delve into other details about having al-Sabirin representatives at the Factions Coordinating Committee and their view on pacification. The new organization said that they established good communication channels with other parties and with the government.

The security situation in Gaza forces any political or military faction to coordinate with Hamas since it is the largest resistance movement in Gaza irrespective of how the reconciliation effort and the security issue will play out. The internal security agency affiliated with the government and the special security agency affiliated with al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, follow up with these organizations. As to whether the Palestinian landscape needs another organization, Abu Yousef says: “In light of the new conspiracies to liquidate the Palestinian cause, the fact that the Arab and Islamic worlds are preoccupied with other issues and the two major Palestinian factions are heading towards a political solution, we concluded that we have a religious duty to step forward at this stage to help the Palestinian cause reclaim its rightful place and rectify the direction it is taking. Palestine requires sacrifices and this path does not end as long as our land is occupied.

Hezbollah’s announcement of the martyrdom of one of its leaders in Syria, Fawzi Ayoub, angered the Israeli media, which refocused on Hezbollah’s role in supporting the Palestinian factions inside Palestine. Especially Ayoub who was arrested in the West Bank in 2000 and was released as part of a prisoner swap deal. Tel Aviv always accuses Tehran, Damascus and Hezbollah of providing financial and military aid to Palestinian factions, training their fighters, sending experts to help them and creating sleeper cells.

In terms of arming them, Abu Islam said: “We are still a small group, which means our abilities are limited. But we depend on our morale which we consider the basis of our confrontation with the enemy.”

As for their funding, he refused to disclose a specific source. He said, however, that the financial support they receive is still limited and restricted to relationships with those he described as supporters of the Palestinian people in addition to personal donations. He said that, in the future, they are going to “open channels with parties that fund the Resistance and get the necessary support.”

The secretary general of al-Sabrin’s Shura Council

His nom de guerre is Abu Mohammed. Those close to him refuse to reveal his real name because he does not personally represent al-Sabirin as they say. “Rather, there is a Shura Council that takes decisions in the organization. This council is not new but its announcement was delayed because of certain circumstances that were preceded by a long latent period.”

Not much comes up on Abu Mohammed when you try to find out who he is because he is a mysterious figure and moves about secretly. He has been a wanted man by Israel for 18 years. His name became prominent in resistance circles after the Israeli forces tried to arrest him at the beginning of the Intifada for an operation that killed 35 Israeli soldiers in Tel Aviv. But he left his house before they arrived. So they decided to demolish his home, which consists of six floors. This led to the martyrdom of his father and displacement of his family. He is accused of having a strong relationship with influential figures in the Islamic Republic in Iran which means he is being watched by Hamas’ security agencies. They arrested him more than once without being able to prove anything against him. He was also imprisoned by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the 1980s and 1990s.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment