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‘Militaries outdated, they should go like cannibalism & slavery’

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

‘We want to work without being treated as slaves’

Greenhouses in Beqa'ot settlement, photo by Corporate Watch February 2013

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper | Corporate Watch | June 27, 2014

During January 2013, Corporate Watch conducted interviews with Palestinians who work in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Part one to three of our findings can be read here, here and here.

We met 44 year old Rashid* and 38 year old Zaid* in their hometown of Tammoun in the northern West Bank. They both work in the illegal Israeli settlement of Beqa’ot. A colony with 171 residents situated close to the Palestinian community of Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley.


Palestinian bedouin close to Beqa’ot are prevented from building permanent structures by the Israeli military, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Tammoun is situated just outside the Jordan Valley. Like thousands of other Palestinian workers Zaid and Rashid travel into the Jordan Valley in search of work on a daily basis. To cross into the valley they have to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint at Tayasir or Al Hamra.

Rashid has worked in Beqa’ot since the early ’90s whereas Zaid worked in Israel until 5 years ago. Zaid tells us: “Now it is impossible for me to get a permit to work outside the West Bank.”

For Israeli companies, sourcing their goods from the settlements in the Jordan Valley allows them to circumvent workers rights and health and safety regulations. According to Zaid: “Inside Israel the workers have contracts and the conditions are better. This is because in Israel there are some controls on companies, unlike in the West Bank.”

Both men work all year round except for September-November when there is no work available. They have no contracts and tell us that none of their workmates do either. Their job is to plant grapes and tend to the vines, pruning them and spraying them with fertilisers and chemicals. At harvest time they cut and collect the grapes.

Grapevines in the settlement of Beqa'ot, photo taken by Corporate Watch, February 2013

Grapevines in the settlement of Beqa’ot, photo taken by Corporate Watch, February 2013

Zaid and Rashid both work in the fields outside the boundaries of Beqa’ot. They do not have a permit to enter the settlement itself.

Paid below the minimum wage

Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled to the Israeli minimum wage since an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2007 (see here). In 2010 Corporate Watch conducted over 40 interviews with settlement workers showing that Palestinians are consistently paid as little as half the minimum wage. These conditions remained largely unchanged when we returned in 2014.

The current hourly minimum wage is 23.12, NIS (New Israeli Shekels),the equivalent of 184.96 NIS for an eight hour working day, having risen from 20.70 NIS in 2009. However, for Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley these conditions seem an impossible dream.

Zaid and Rashid are employed directly by the settlers in Beqa’ot and speak to them directly to arrange their work. Both get paid 82 New Israeli Shekels (NIS), 18 of which goes towards daily transport.

They have no insurance provided by their employer. Rashid explains: “Last year one of the workers died, but the settlers did not help his family at all.

The men do not receive any paid holiday, even for religious holidays. This is despite the fact that an Israeli government website advises that workers are entitled to 14 days paid holiday and must receive a written contract and payslips from their employer (see here).

Both men are members of the General Palestinian Workers Union (GPWU). However, they are unable to represent workers in Beqa’ot or negotiate with their bosses. According to Rashid: “We organise trainings for agricultural workers but we are not recognised by the settlers, we do not receive any representation from Histradrut”.

Histradrut is the Israeli trade union organisation. Many campaigners for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid have called for a boycott of the Histradrut because of its failure to represent Palestinian workers and its overt support of Israeli state policies. For example, in 2010 the British University and College Union broke ties with the Histradrut; a UCU spokesperson said the Histradrut, “supported the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza” and “did not deserve the name of a trade union”.

Companies sourcing produce from Beqa’ot

Mehadrin Tnuport boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Mehadrin Tnuport boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Carmel Agrexco boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Carmel Agrexco boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

STM  boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

STM boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Export label on a box in Beqa'ot statying that these grapes are shipped by Carmel agrexco, Photo taken in Febuary 2013 by Corporate Watch

Export label on a box in Beqa’ot statying that these grapes are shipped by Carmel agrexco, Photo taken in Febuary 2013 by Corporate Watch

Rashid tells us: “We label the grapes ‘Made in the Jordan Valley’ and mark them with the name and phone number of the Israeli settler.

“Each of the settler has his own packing house. When we harvest the grapes they are taken first of all to packing houses in Beqa’ot owned by individual settler, then transported to a central refrigeration unit owned by the Moshav [a Hebrew word for a cooperative farm]. Then a refrigeration truck takes them to be exported.”

The men tell us that the majority of the grapes they harvest are exported through Mehadrin.

Corporate Watch visited Beqa’Ot in February 2013 and photographed several packing houses displaying Mehadrin signage. Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX) is a part of the huge Mehadrin Group which owns a 50% of STM Agricultural Exports Ltd – another Israeli company dealing in vegetables. MTEX export around 70% of all their produce to outside Israel and are one of the largest suppliers for the Jaffa brand world wide. Sainsburys confirmed to Corporate Watch in August 2013 that the supermarket sourced fresh vegetables from Mehadrin. Mehadrin is also certified to supply fresh produce to Tesco (see here).

Corporate Watch also photographed boxes and export labels for Carmel Agrexco in Beqa’ot. Carmel Agrexco was the Israeli state owned fresh produce export company. In 2011 the company went into liquidation, due in part to the international boycott movement. The brand has since been bought by Gideon Bickel of Israeli firm Bickel Flowers and has been fighting to regain lost contracts.

Working for poverty wages on land stolen from their families

Rashid and Zaid refer to Beqa’ot by its Palestinian name, Libqya. Rashid tells us: “Before the occupation in 1967 Libqya was owned by Palestinians who used it for planting crops and raising animals. All of the families around here owned land in Libqya.

“I remember when my mother passed Libqya when I was young she told us how she used to play there with her brothers and sisters. Our family owned 70 dunums of land there.

“This reality is too painful. When I was older I tried to reach the land my mother told me about. But a settler told me I was forbidden to go there.”

‘We will get back our land’

Both men are supportive of the call for a boycott of Israeli agricultural companies. When it was pointed out that if the boycott was successful then their employers would not be able to pay them a wage any longer Zaid responded: “We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.”

* Names have been changed at the authors’ discretion

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Language, like land, under assault in Palestine

By Jamal Sweid | Al-Akhbar | June 27, 2014

Haifa – “Land, akin to language, is inherited,” Mahmoud Darwish once said. In the occupied territories, however, language is pillaged, appropriated, violated, and surrounded by barbed wire, just like the land.

Under the policy of increasingly exploiting interconnected events to cover up dangerous plans, the Israeli Ministry of Education recently struck a blow to Palestinians living in occupied Palestine. The ministry announced a decision to stop teaching Arabic grammar in preparatory and secondary schools. The alternative was what the ministry called “functional principles in teaching grammar,” which it claimed will allow students to comprehend the functions of grammar, based on understanding a text.

The decision provoked widespread concern and calls for its rejection. However, the ministry stuck to its position and issued a statement explaining its decision. It maintained that it aimed at “bridging the gap between the language and its speakers in the era of technology and outburst of information.”

Palestinians of all segments, including teachers and parents, expressed rejection of the decision to Al-Akhbar as “a disguised attempt to tear away students from their language, and thus their belonging and cause.” They called for the widest protests possible to force the ministry to repeal the decision, which has been approved by the authorities.

The decision comes as students and graduates in occupied Palestine are facing a clear weakness in grammar and conjugation. According to experts, this deficiency is higher than in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It requires enhancing the grammar curriculum to help the students, instead of its removal and replacement under the guise of “advancement and the technological gap.” Several experts told Al-Akhbar that the technological gap claimed by Israel will not be solved by cancelling the curriculum, but by its modernization.

“In this situation, we need to look for ways to strengthen student bonds to their language and its rules,” explained Murad Ali, an Arabic teacher from Acre. “Students are already facing difficulties in grammar, although it is taught in the curriculum. What will be the case when it gets cancelled?” In a few years, high school graduates in the 1948 territories will be unable to formulate a proper sentence.

This prediction, however, had been a reality for years, according to other experts. Their evidence is based on the fact that many graduates lack the most basic command of Arabic and commit several errors, which is inappropriate at their educational level.

Ibrahim Shehade, a retired school principal from Acre, said that students welcomed the ministry’s decision. “For them, Arabic grammar is one of the most difficult subjects of the language curriculum. But they do not understand the future risks,” he explained to Al-Akhbar. “Grades in literature and expression subjects are relatively high, compared to grammar. Some students believe that by removing grammar, they will improve their grade average.”

Samer Khoury, from Shafa Amr, agreed, saying “grammar is the graveyard of grades,” explaining that he received a low score in Arabic because of grammar.

Yet, the students are not completely comfortable with the decision. Some believe that it targets their language and bonds. Despite the difficulty of learning grammar and conjugation, they are willing to find alternatives to improve their proficiency, “without touching our language.”

In the Israeli Knesset, Arab politicians and MPs are yet to take up the question because of the weight of other issues. However, Arab Knesset member from the Democratic Front and the Communist Party, Mohammed Baraka, spoke about the decision in the press. After mentioning the questions of land, housing, and health, he said he will be focusing more on the issue of grammar.

The more direct position was taken by Knesset member from the United Arab List, Masoud Ghanayem, who called for a hearing on the issue. He received a reply from the minister of education stating that “the decision does not mean abandoning the teaching of Arabic grammar, but its enhancement.”

“The new curriculum was created by Arab supervisors and academics, in cooperation with the Arabic Language Academy in Haifa,” the minister added. His statement shed light on a sensitive issue. Most teachers who spoke to Al-Akhbar maintained that it was false. But many refused to be named, “out of fear of the supervisors and higher authorities.”

The boldest academic objection was made by Dr. Mohammed Khalil, a well-known Palestinian academic and one of the first people to warn about the decision. “The issue clearly aims to get schools to dispense of Arabic grammar books altogether, imposing a curriculum where grammar is taught at the spur of the moment,” he exclaimed.

Khalil was not surprised about the “unjust decision of the [Israeli] authorities.” However, he was dismayed by “the presence of Arab Palestinians in the committee, which agreed on the new curriculum.” Several teachers who spoke to Al-Akhbar also mentioned the issue.

Ultimately, the decision will not be limited to the schools, in the midst of an Israeli campaign to replace the names of Palestinian landmarks with ones in Hebrew. In opposition, Palestinians are actively campaigning to promote the Arabic names and preserving them.

“But what kind of impact will this have if our sons and daughters are ignorant of the principles of their language and its lifeline?” asked Marwan Barieh, a university student studying the Arabic language. “Undermining a fundamental pillar of any language will lead to its total collapse. This applies to grammar and its relationship with the Arabic language in general.”

Despite the angry reactions to the decision, language is being pillaged just like [Palestinian] land. The process reproduces itself in the same manner: statements and more statements are issued, then comes the implementation of the appropriation and each party reverts to its original position. They might declare a position to outmaneuver the others, but the loss of land and language is unlike any other loss.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel says disintegration in Iraq may lead to independent Kurdish state

RT | June 27, 2014

While the Iraqi army struggles to contain the ISIS advance in the country’s northwest, the Kurds have been successful at heading off the Sunni insurgents. Israel has now openly stated that an independent Kurdish state is a “foregone conclusion.”

“Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry as the two discussed the Iraqi crisis in Paris on Thursday.

Israeli President Shimon Peres had a similar message for US President Barack Obama. “The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women,” Peres said on Wednesday.

While forces from the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) were advancing towards the capital Baghdad, the Iraqi army abandoned the city of Kirkuk. The Kurds have seized on the chaos to expand their autonomous northern territory to include the strategic city.

Besides being considered by Kurds as their historical capital, Kirkuk sits on vast oil deposits – a stable financial base for any possible statehood.

“Kirkuk will finally produce oil for the Kurds,” Muhama Khalil, the Kurdish head of the economic committee in Iraq’s national parliament, told the Guardian.

“For 70 years oil has been used to buy weapons to kill us. Finally we have our own oil and it will only be for the Kurds,” he said.

The Kurds now control the oil hub, and there were numerous reports that they sold a tanker full of oil to Israel – a country that their Arab neighbors maintain a boycott of crude sales to.

Israel keeps quiet about its ties with the Kurds, allegedly at the request of the latter. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there were currently no formal diplomatic relations with the Kurds, but Eliezer Tsafrir – a former Mossad station chief in Kurdish northern Iraq – told Reuters that “we’d love it to be out in the open, to have an embassy there, to have normal relations. But we keep it clandestine because that’s what they want.”

The Israelis may see the Kurds as a natural ally in the Arab-dominated region where both feel they are threatened minorities.

In an interview to CNN, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani also commented on the possibility of an independent state, saying that “The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold.”

In a reverse to decades of mistrust, the Kurds might find another country supporting their independence – Turkey. It now has a 50-year deal to send Kurdish oil by pipeline to Ceyhan and has been investing in Iraq’s increasingly autonomous Kurdish region in recent years.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the Kurds’ right to self-determination. “The Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of entity they are living in,” Erdogan said last week.

Meanwhile, the US urges Kurdish leaders to support Baghdad in its fight against ISIS. Washington also assured the Kurds they would participate in the next Iraqi government.

For thousands of years, the majority of Kurds – who are an Iranian people – have lived in the Kurdistan region, an area along the border of four Middle Eastern countries. Now the Kurdish population is scattered between northern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and western Iran. They total up to 40 million people – making the Kurds one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without its own state.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Family of kidnap suspect deny Israeli accusations


Ma’an – 27/06/2014

HEBRON – The father of one of the suspects named by Israel as being behind the disappearance of three Israeli youths has denied that his son was involved in the suspected kidnapping.

On Thursday, Israel named Marwan al-Qawasmeh, 29, and Amer Abu Eisha, 33, as the two main suspects behind the kidnapping of three Israeli youths on June 12.

Israel’s Shin Bet said they had been jailed in the past for taking part in “terrorist activity on behalf of Hamas.”

Speaking to Ma’an, Abu Eisha’s father denied the allegations and said the family is worried that he has been detained and is being tortured by Israeli security forces.

“The occupation kidnapped my son Amer and I’m afraid they will kill him and say that they killed the terrorist and saved the settlers,” Omar Abu Eisha said.

“I have not yet grasped that Amer and Marwan could kidnap three settlers from the most dangerous security square in Etzion. These are Israeli fabrications, whose goal could be is to strike Hamas in the West Bank and strike the national reconciliation,” he added.

Omar Abu Eisha said that he was with his son Amer at a social event the night the three Israelis went missing, but said that later on in the night he could not find his son and he has been missing ever since.

“He told his wife that he might be away for two days for work in al-Eizariya, but he has not called and I am certain that Israel has kidnapped and hid him,” he said.

Omar Abu Eisha told Ma’an that his son was “working hard and saving money” to build a new house.

The family of Marwan al-Qawasmeh refused to be interviewed or comment on the Israeli accusations.

Eisha was first arrested in Nov. 2005 and was held without trial or charge by Israeli forces until June 2006. He was re-arrested in April 2007 for a short period of time.

Eisha’s brother was shot dead by Israeli forces in Nov. 2005 while ostensibly trying to “throw an explosive” at them, and his father had been arrested by Israel multiple times.

After the Israeli teens disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank, the army launched a vast hunt for them focusing on the Hebron area.

Israeli forces initially accused Hamas of the kidnapping, which it vigorously denied, and authorities vowed to “crush” the Palestinian political and militant group.

More than 120 Palestinians have been injured in the military operation, which Israel dubbed “Brother’s Keeper,” and more than 1,350 homes and offices, including numerous universities, have been raided.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said on Thursday that 566 Palestinians have been detained in the campaign, including 12 members of parliament.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas: Israeli announcement of names of kidnappers an attempt to cover its failure

MEMO | June 27, 2014

Hamas has described Israel’s announcement of the names of some of those it accuses of kidnapping the three settlers in Hebron as “an attempt to cover up its utter failure in finding them”, Anadolu news agency reported a Hamas official as saying.

Spokesman for the movement Sami Abu-Zuhri said yesterday: “The Israeli announcement of some of the names it accuses of implementing the Hebron operation reflects its continued state of confusion and an attempt to cover up its utter failure in finding them.”

The Israeli General Security Service, Shin Bet accused two Hamas activists from Hebron, in the south of the West Bank, “of kidnapping three Israeli settlers two weeks ago”.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed reports that troops were seeking Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, members of Hamas in Hebron, both of whom have served time in Israeli prisons in the past.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “A short time after the kidnapping, I said that those who perpetrated this activity were terrorists of Hamas, and indeed today the security services of Israel published the names of two of the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

He added: “I now expected President Abbas, who said important things in Saudi Arabia, to stand by those words and to break his pact with the Hamas terrorist organization that kidnaps children and calls for the destruction of Israel.”

Since the disappearance of three settlers from the south of the West Bank, the Israeli army has arrested nearly 571 Palestinians, mostly leaders and activists in the Hamas movement.

No Palestinian party has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Netanyahu held Hamas responsible, an accusation the movement has rejected, without confirming or denying the charges.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

UN calls for dialogue over Malvinas Islands

Press TV – June 27, 2014

A United Nations committee has approved a resolution calling on Britain and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Malvinas Islands, also known as the Falkland Islands.

On Thursday, the UN Decolonization Committee approved the new resolution, calling for a negotiated solution to the 200-year dispute.

This comes as the world body refuses to recognize the outcome of a 2013 referendum on the political status of Malvinas. According to the vote, the territory claimed by both Argentina and the UK, would remain a British colony.

The British government has so far rejected several UN resolutions and repeated calls from Argentina for negotiations on the sovereignty of the region.

Britain argues that it is up to the islands to decide. But Argentina says the English-speaking islanders are an implanted population kept stagnant for the purpose of occupying the territory.

Argentina’s foreign minister said the dispute is not with the people living in the Malvinas but with the British government.

“Argentina has no problem with citizenship. Our problem is that the United Kingdom is occupying Argentinean territory against international law and the United Nations expressly rejects applying to the Malvinas the principle of self-determination,” Hector Timerman said on Thursday.

Argentina and Britain fought a 74-day-long war in 1982 over the islands. The conflict ended with the British side claiming victory.

Located about 480 kilometers (300 miles) off Argentina’s coast, the Malvinas Islands have been declared part of the British overseas territories since the UK established its colonial rule on the territories in 1833.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Catalonians hold rally against Spanish monarchy

Press TV – June 27, 2014

Pro-independence Spaniards have staged a protest rally against the Spanish monarchy as the new king urges collaboration in the region.

On Thursday, thousands of Catalonians took to the streets of Girona to voice their anger against the royal family’s involvement in a series of corruption scandals.

The fresh protest came hours after Spain’s newly-appointed King Felipe VI reached out to Catalonians earlier in the day, urging their collaboration to help defuse tensions with Madrid.

“Sincere and generous collaboration is the best way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of each person and achieve great collective goals for the common good,” the king said in a speech on his first visit to Catalonia since ascending to the throne.

The majority of 7.5 million inhabitants of Catalonia have expressed resentment for the redistribution of their taxes to other regions of Spain.

Catalan leaders plan to hold an independence referendum in November. The government has condemned the move as illegal.

Catalonia has been seeking independence and autonomy from Spain since the end of the 19th century. In recent years, massive rallies have been held to claim the self-determination right for the region.

The latest protest comes as the image of the royal family has been tarnished by a series of scandals. Juan Carlos’s daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are under investigation for possible tax fraud and money laundering.

Spain has been the scene of anti-monarchy protests in recent weeks after Juan Carlos announced he would step down in favor of his son Philippe. The 46-year-old monarch was officially sworn in before parliament on June 19.

According to a survey conducted earlier this month, the majority of the Spanish people are in favor of a referendum on the future of monarchy in their country.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s People Show Their True Colors

By David McCarey | CounterPunch | June 27, 2014

For those who wondered what happened to Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former campaign advisor and mealy-mouthed White House press secretary, he has resurfaced in the private sector. He is the co-founder of Incite Agency, an upscale public relations firm. Apparently, going from an underpaid shill for the White House to an overpaid shill for Corporate America was a seamless (and guiltless) transition.

Gibbs’ public relations company’s first major assignment is going to be a real whopper. Hold on to your seat. Incite Agency is going to launch a national public relations campaign aimed at destroying America’s teachers’ unions. It’s true. Gibbs and company have announced that they will be preparing the groundwork for lawsuits across the country, challenging tenure and other teachers’ job protection.

When you consider that Obama has surrounded himself with anti-union people (Rahm Emanuel, Arne Duncan, Eric Holder, et al), this vile announcement should come as no surprise, not to people who’ve been paying attention. Still, the naked audacity and venality of the move caught some of us off-guard. We’re reminded of that Lily Tomlin line: “I worry that no matter how cynical I become, it’s never going to be enough.”

If people out there—say parents—were truly and sincerely opposed to school teachers receiving tenure, believing that union protection somehow contributed to “substandard education” (which every study ever conducted has refuted), one could almost forgive their ignorance. Not knowing the facts, all that these good people want is a decent education for their kids, for America’s kids, and no one should ridicule that.

But this anti-teacher campaign has nothing to do with improving education. It has as much to do with that as “designer water” has to do with improving people’s health. Some ambitious guys simply got together and figured out a way to get people to reject municipal water. By pretending that plastic water was somehow better than tap (even though municipal standards are higher), they were able to carve out a new market. Getting people to pay for something they could otherwise get free is no small feat.

These same guys (the ones who want more toll roads and want to charge fees for walking on hiking trails) now want to privatize America’s public education system. The prospect of millions of families willing to pay for something that they could otherwise get free has these covetous money-grubbers positively drooling. This would be a bonanza for the ruling class. But it’s tricky. It’s a big move. How do they pull off something like that?

Obviously, they can’t compare resumes or backgrounds or certification. Obviously, they can’t mention the fact that public school teachers are required to have not only a college degree but a teaching credential. They can’t mention it because of the embarrassing fact that private school teachers aren’t required to have either.

Private school teachers require less certification and are paid less. Yet these entrepreneurs want people to believe private schools somehow attract the best teachers. That argument wouldn’t work for doctors. You couldn’t convince people that the best physicians were the ones with the least education and lowest salaries. So how do they convince them that privatization is a smart move? They do it by demonizing the labor unions that represent the teachers.

Given that there is a massive public relations smear-job loose upon the land, it is incumbent upon the AFL-CIO to respond in kind. The House of Labor has money to spend. They need to spend it wisely. Instead of blowing it on futile organizing drives (e.g., Wal-Mart), they should focus their energy on speaking frankly with the American public. Convince them that they’re being played for suckers. There is still time.

David Macaray is a labor columnist and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor, 2nd Edition).

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | | Leave a comment

Ukraine and EU sign free trade zone deal

RT | June 27, 2014

Ukraine has signed the economic part of the Association Agreement with the EU, with Georgia and Moldova also joining the pact, even though big economic risks lie ahead.

The signing of the economic part of the agreement comes after 8 months of violent unrest in Ukraine, which broke out in Kiev and spread across the country in November after then-President Viktor Yanukovich decided to reject the trade agreement in favor of trilateral talks.

The document contains 31 signatures – Ukraine, all 28 EU member states, as well as that of the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The agreement will only come into force when it is ratified by every national parliament in the EU. It is expected that the ratification process will be complete by this fall.

Georgia and Moldova also signed both political and economic parts of the Association Agreement. Ukraine signed a political part of the agreement in March, shortly after Crimea rejoined Russia.

“By signing the association agreement, Ukraine, like European nation, which shares the same rules of law, stresses its sovereign choice to become a member of the EU Association Agreement in the future,” said Ukraine’s President Poroshenko before the signing ceremony. The Ukrainian President sees the trade document as a stepping stone to eventual EU statehood.

Friday signing the Free Trade Agreement will open up trade barriers between the former Soviet states, but doesn’t guarantee them EU membership, a main goal of the three governments.

“It is their sovereign right, but the Russian Federation will have to take measures in case it negatively effects the local market,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson said, commenting on the agreements signed between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

Russia has warned these “measures” could include $500 billion in lost trade and possible bans on Ukrainian imports.

“There is no economic growth to be had by suddenly having western European goods dumped at low cost on your marketplace,” Patrick Young, an expert on emerging markets, told RT.

In order to fully implement the free trade zone, it could cost Ukraine’s already fragile economy an additional $104 billion, according to a previous estimate by Yanukovich. This will include adopting hundreds of new trade laws and thousands of new laws to comply with EU standards.

In 2013, EU exports to Ukraine were worth $33 billion (23.9 billion euro), dominated by industrial equipment, chemicals, and manufactured goods.

Ukraine exported 13.8 billion euro worth of goods to the EU, mostly materials like iron, steel, and minerals. Agricultural and food products are also substantial exports.

The Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) will replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement Ukraine signed with the EU in 1998.

Eastern Ukraine, which rejects the new Ukrainian government’s authority, is skeptical of Kiev’s European ambition, as is the EU itself.

“EU is not ready to integrate at this stage a country like Ukraine,” Jose Barroso, President of the European Commission said before the talks.

Brussels started the Eastern Partnership initiative to incorporate six former Soviet Republics into the EU free trade zone. Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia have followed Poland’s example, whereas Armenia, Belarus, and Azerbaijan are likely to opt for closer trade links with Russia.

Trilateral trade talks between the EU, Russia, and Ukraine will take place on July 11. Russia has made it very clear that by signing the trade agreement Ukraine can no longer enter the Eurasian Customs Union, which already includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

NYT Revamps Its False Ukraine Narrative

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 26, 2014

It’s always interesting when the New York Times promotes a false narrative – as it has on Ukraine by blaming the crisis all on “Russian aggression” – and then has to shift its storyline when events move in a different direction, like President Vladimir Putin’s recent peacemaking initiatives.

On Thursday, the Times explained Putin’s call for an extended ceasefire as a case of him caving in to U.S. pressure. Correspondents Andrew Roth and David S. Herszenhorn wrote:

“Faced with the threat of additional economic sanctions from Washington, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia discussed an extension of the cease-fire, which is to expire on Friday, in a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President François Hollande of France and Ukraine’s new president, Petro O. Poroshenko.”

The article then continued the tough-guy, ultimatum-threatening chest-pounding that has become de rigueur for the State Department and the mainstream U.S. news media. The Times article noted:

“The Obama administration has drawn up plans to escalate sanctions against Russia if it does not back the current peace plan by halting the flow of weapons and fighters across the Russian border. The sanctions could target some of Russia’s largest banks, or energy and defense firms.”

The Times also reported, without skepticism, the unverified allegations that the Russian government is supplying heavy weapons to the eastern Ukrainian separatists who rebelled after violent protests by western Ukrainians ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22.

The U.S. government has repeatedly made allegations about “Russian aggression” in eastern Ukraine but has failed to present any verifiable proof to support the claims. One State Department attempt, which involved getting the Times to run a lead article citing photos purportedly proving that Russian military personnel were operating in Ukraine, collapsed under scrutiny and was later retracted by the Times.

Nevertheless, the Times still conveys the State Department’s claims without noting the absence of evidence, itself evidence of the Times’ unstinting bias in its coverage of the Ukraine crisis. For instance, the Times reported:

“On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry began a news conference at NATO in Brussels by calling for Mr. Putin ‘to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the border.’ Mr. Kerry said that the missile launcher that brought down the [Ukrainian military] helicopter on Tuesday was Russian-made and urged Mr. Putin to call for separatist forces to lay down their arms. A senior administration official said Friday that several tanks under rebel possession had come from Russia.”

Normally, when one party in a dispute makes an allegation and fails to provide meaningful evidence to support it, news organizations add something like: “However, the claim could not be independently verified” or the Times might have noted that “similar claims by the State Department in the past have proven to be false.”

But the Times simply can’t seem to deviate from its four-month display of an extraordinary lack of balance, which brings us back to the Times’ attempt to explain Putin’s peacemaking as a development that could only be explained as him caving in to U.S. pressure. [For more on the Times’ bias, see’sNYT’s One-Sided Ukraine Narrative.” For more on Herszenhorn’s bias, see “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]

Putin’s Thinking

There is, of course, an alternative explanation for Putin’s recent behavior: that he never sought the Ukraine crisis and surely did not plan it; it resulted, in part, from U.S. and European provocations designed to put Putin in a corner in his own corner of the world; Putin reacted to this Western maneuver but was always willing to compromise as long as the end result was not a strategic threat to Russia.

I’m told that Putin, like many historic Russian leaders, has wanted to see Russia accepted as a member of the First World and took personal pride in helping President Barack Obama defuse crises in Syria and Iran last year. Arguably, it was Putin’s assistance on those crises that made him a target of Washington’s still influential neocons who had hoped instead for U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran.

By late September 2013 – on the heels of Obama rejecting plans to bomb Syria – leading neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, identified Ukraine as a key piece on the chessboard to checkmate Putin. [See’sWhat Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

The Ukraine crisis really emerged from the European Union’s offer of an association agreement that President Yanukovych was initially inclined to accept. But it was accompanied by harsh austerity demands from the International Monetary Fund, which would have made the hard life for the average Ukrainian even harder.

Because of those IMF demands and a more generous $15 billion loan offer from Russia, Yanukovych backed away from the EU association, angering many western Ukrainians and creating an opening for U.S. neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain, to urge on protests to unseat Yanukovych.

In February, as the Ukraine crisis worsened, Putin was preoccupied with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but he went along with a compromise plan on Feb. 21 in which Yanukovych agreed to reduced powers and early elections (so he could be voted out of office) as well as to pull back the police. That opened the way for violent attacks by neo-Nazi militias who overran government buildings on Feb. 22 and forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.

With the U.S. State Department endorsing the coup as “legitimate,” a right-wing government quickly took shape under the leadership of Nuland’s hand-picked prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Four ministries were given to the neo-Nazis in appreciation of their key role in the coup, including the appointment of Andriy Parubiy as chief of national security.

The new regime immediately displayed hostility toward the ethnic Russians in the east and south, including sending wealthy “oligarchs” to serve as the new regional governors and dispatching neo-Nazi militias – reconstituted as the National Guard – to crackdown on dissent.

The regional government of Crimea, a longtime part of Russia and home of the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, organized a referendum to secede from Ukraine and to rejoin Russia, a move supported by Putin and aided by the thousands of Russian troops already in Crimea under a basing agreement with Ukraine.

Crimea’s secession was treated by the mainstream U.S. media as a Russian “invasion” and an act of “aggression,” though the reunification with Russia clearly had overwhelming support from the people of Crimea as expressed in the referendum and in opinion polls.

Still, across Official Washington, the narrative took hold that Putin had ginned up the Ukraine crisis so he could seize territory and begin to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. Right-wing and neocon pundits raised the specter of Putin attacking the Baltic states. The U.S. news media lost all perspective on the actual events in Ukraine.

The reality was that Putin was reacting to a Western provocation on his border, a coup d’etat to pry Ukraine away from its traditional relationship with its neighbor Russia and into the embrace of the European Union and NATO. Putin himself noted the threat to Russian national security if NATO’s nuclear-missile-bearing ships were berthed in Sevastopol.

From the beginning, Putin hoped to resolve this crisis through discussions with his erstwhile collaborator, Barack Obama, but – with the U.S. media in a frenzy demonizing Putin – Obama would not even come to the phone at first, I’m told. Afraid of being called “weak,” Obama followed the lead of the State Department’s hawks who were lusting for Cold War II.

Gradually, with Europe’s fragile economic recovery at risk if Russia’s natural gas supplies were disrupted, cooler heads began to prevail. Obama eventually took Putin’s phone calls and the two met face-to-face during the ceremonies around the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France. Putin also viewed chocolate manufacturer Petro Poroshenko as a reasonable choice to fill the slot of Ukraine’s new president.

Poroshenko and Putin found common ground in their desire to deescalate the crisis although neither leader has been able to fully control the hardliners, not Poroshenko in trying to rein in the Right Sektor which has taken a lead role in killing ethnic Russians in Odessa and other cities, nor Putin in convincing the separatists that they have a future in the post-coup Ukraine.

But Putin continues to signal support for Poroshenko’s stated intent to respect the rights of eastern Ukrainians by offering more self-rule and respecting their use of Russian as an official language. In a sign of good faith, Putin has even sought to rescind the permission from the Russian legislature to intervene militarily to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

However, these developments created a dilemma for the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream U.S. news media. If the Ukraine crisis had been just an excuse for Putin to seize territory and revive the “Russian empire,” why would he be so eager to work out a peaceful settlement? The opposite should be true. If the MSM had it right, Putin would be escalating the crisis.

So, we now have this new version: Yes, Putin precipitated the Ukraine crisis so he could conquer Eastern Europe. But he backed down because of tough talk from Official Washington (including on the MSM’s op-ed pages). In other words, the MSM had it right but tough-guy-ism and the threat of sanctions scared Putin into retreat.

That this analysis makes little sense – since it was the European Union that was most unnerved by the prospects of U.S.-driven sanctions disrupting Russia’s natural gas supplies and plunging the Continent into a recessionary relapse – was of little regard to the U.S. press corps. The new false narrative was simply a necessary way to cover for the old false narrative.

It could never be acknowledged that the New York Times and the other esteemed U.S. journals had gotten another major international story wrong, that another “group think” had led the MSM down another rabbit hole of mistakes and misunderstanding. Instead, all that was needed was some creative tinkering with the storyline.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Germany gives Verizon the boot over NSA spying scandal

RT | June 26, 2014

Citing concerns over the NSA’s wiretapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials’ phones, the German Interior Ministry announced Thursday that it will not renew its contract with Verizon to provide service for government ministries.

As part of an effort to revamp its secure communications networks, the country will instead rely on Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, Reuters reported.

Since the beginning of the NSA scandal, US businesses have expressed concern over the potential blowback of the revelations on their bottom lines. Fearing foreign governments and other firms will no longer trust them to provide secure products and services, they’ve pushed back against the government, demanding more transparency of how the intelligence community operates.

Verizon is one of the first companies that can point to the NSA as a direct cause for a failed business deal. The Interior Ministry released a statement Thursday, saying “the ties revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms in the wake of the U.S. National Security Agency affair show that the German government needs a very high level of security for its critical networks.”

Although it was the first company outed by journalist Glenn Greenwald and British newspaper The Guardian as providing the NSA with millions of instances of metadata on a daily basis, Verizon is not the only – or necessarily the first – to do so.

As far back as 2001, the NSA reportedly collected data from AT&T by re-routing information on its network to government computers. Reporting by Wired revealed documents from AT&T technician Mark Klein showing how the feat was accomplished using hardware in a now famous secret room at the company’s San Francisco data center.

Though the US and Germany are allies, documents released over the past year by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed an American intelligence community with access to a wide variety of German communications. The fallout has been a chilling of relations between the two nations, with the Bundestag (German parliament) especially fierce in its criticisms and demands for answers from the US.

To the consternation of American officials hoping to prosecute Snowden for espionage, the German parliament even invited the leaker to testify about the NSA’s practices in a formal hearing.

Chancellor Merkel, however, has a mixed history with demanding answers from the US.

At first reacting with outrage and comparing the NSA to the Stasi – the communist East German secret police – she also demanded the two nations agree to a “no-spying” pact.

Her attitude changed markedly, however, after meeting with President Barack Obama in May. Stressing the need for unity, Merkel attempted to brush the scandal that has outraged German citizens under the rug. This was not received warmly by opposition parties and many of her constituents, a large number of whom view Snowden as a hero.

Meanwhile, further allegations regarding US surveillance continue to be brought forward. According to a report recently published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung , NDR and WDR, the NSA had been given access to large swaths of telecoms data by the country’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND). For at least three years raw data was fed directly to the US agency out of Frankfurt — the city is a telecoms hub for much of Europe and beyond.

The former Minister of the Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich, declared last year that if a foreign intel service had been given a tap into the telecoms node in Frankfurt, it would be a violation of Germany’s sovereignty.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment