Aletho News


Holder’s Agency in Ferguson


emptywheel | August 19, 2014

Eric Holder just published an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, apparently aiming to generate confidence in DOJ’s investigation into Darren Wilson’s killing of Mike Brown.

It starts with 3 sentences describing Brown’s killing — with no mention of Wilson, or even that a cop killed Brown.

Since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, the nation and the world have witnessed the unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo. At the core of these demonstrations is a demand for answers about the circumstances of this young man’s death and a broader concern about the state of our criminal justice system.

At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened.

A disembodied shooting killed Brown in this telling; violence did not.

Holder then spends several paragraphs discussing both the investigation itself, as well as the actions of the Civil Rights Division before he turns – in the course of one paragraph — to the protests. Here, violence is described as violence.

We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.

The implication, of course, is that the violence comes exclusively from that “very small minority,” not the cops shooting rubber bullets from their tanks.

I find the next paragraph truly remarkable.

The Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told. But violence cannot be condoned. I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord.

The Justice Department — the Agency Eric Holder leads, the 40 FBI Agents and Civil Rights prosecutors Holder described — has done nothing visible thus far to defend the First Amendment.

And then, Holder says, “violence cannot be condoned.” A bizarre passive sentence with no agent. By whom? Who cannot condone violence?!?!

And he uses it to urge “the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights” — many of whom have been arrested, bullied, tear gassed, some of whom have formed chains to protect businesses — to “join with law enforcement,” the same law enforcement  that has been bullying them. Holder asks these citizens — who presumably are the ones he says cannot condone violence — to join the cops who have been engaging in violence to condemn others who have also been engaging in violence. Those “others” inflame tensions and sow discord. The cops don’t, according to this telling.

It takes a good paragraph and a half before Holder says the cops must restore trust. Only unlike the “citizens” of Ferguson, Holder does not urge the cops directly to do … anything. He just describes what should happen, he doesn’t command it to happen.

At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile. It requires that force be used in appropriate ways. Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

Note what else happens? That violence — unmentioned in Mike Brown’s actual shooting, but explicitly described when “those others” did it — here becomes “force.” Something distinct from the violence of looters.

Darren Wilson’s shooting of Mike Brown? Not described as violence — not even described as the act of a known man. The looters’ looting? They’re engaged in “violence.” And finally, the cops, whom Holder doesn’t dare urge to tone things down? They are exercising “force,” not “violence.”

I get there are legal reasons why he did this — notably, this permits him to endorse findings that Wilson used “force” out of fear for his own safety! But the grammar and vocabulary of this op-ed insists on the state’s monopoly on violence that it has been abusing for 10 days.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

Latvia urges Europe to stop ‘war of sanctions’ before it ruins world economies

RT | August 19, 2014

The “right steps” politicians in the West and Russia are now taking against each other are very similar to what was happening before World War I, Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikinsh warned EC President Jose Manuel Barroso in a letter Tuesday.

It’s crucial to stop reciprocal sanctions before they throw people into poverty and ruin the economies altogether, the European Parliament member wrote.

“In 2014 exactly 100 years have passed since the beginning of World War I that killed millions of people and left Europe in ruins. On the eve of that war similar processes occurred when countries took “the right” steps against each other and eventually were not able to stop. It is doubtful that in the end of that war anyone remembered for what good intentions it had started,” Mamikinsh wrote in his letter.

These would be ordinary people, not politicians, who’ll be hit first and hardest by a so called “risky poker” played by politicians in the West and Russia, the Latvian MEP, added.

Latvia is expected to suffer the most from the tit for tat sanctions imposed by the West and Russia, Mamikinsh said.

Further escalation of a “sanctions war” would erode about 10 percent of Latvian GDP, which means thousands of people could be left out of work with shrinking living standards.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bulgaria halts South Stream gas pipeline project for second time

RT | August 18, 2014

All operations on Russia’s Gazprom-led project South Stream have been suspended, as they do not meet the requirements of the European Commission, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Economy and Energy said on its website.

“Minister of Economy and Energy Vasil Shtonov has ordered Bulgaria’s Energy Holding to halt any actions in regards of the project,” the ministry said. This specifically means entering into new contracts.

There has been mounting pressure from the EU to put the project on hold, and now the European Commission will be consulted each step of the way to make sure it complies with EU law.

European ‘anti-monopoly’ laws prohibits the same company to both own and operate the pipeline. However, Gazprom and Bulgaria had previously struck a bilateral agreement regarding that aspect of the project.

This is the second time Bulgaria has called for a suspension of the South Stream project. In early June, the country’s Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski ordered the initial halt.

Bulgaria is the first country traversed by the pipeline on land, after a section that runs beneath the Black Sea from Russia. The branch that begins in Bulgaria is planned to continue through Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.

Other participating countries have confirmed their commitment to the South Stream’s construction.

Gazprom’s $45 billion South Stream project, slated to open in 2018 and deliver 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe, is a strategy by Russia meant to bypass politically unstable Ukraine as a transit country, and help ensure the reliability of gas supplies to Europe.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

No ammunition moved through Russia-Ukraine border – OSCE monitors

RT | August 19, 2014

OSCE observers stationed at two Russian border checkpoints, the Ukrainian counterparts of which are controlled by the Ukrainian military, have not witnessed any movements of weapons across the border.

The monitors did witness young people “dressed in military style” moving across the border into Ukraine, Paul Picard, acting chief observer of the OSCE Mission, told journalists. However, all of them were unarmed.

There were also no instances of military vehicles crossing the border in some two weeks which the observers spent at Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints, he added.

He added that the OSCE did its part in assisting the international effort to check a Russian humanitarian aid convoy before it would be allowed into Ukraine, but said the organization has little impact here, because the progress with the convoy depends on Russian and Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The presence of the observers on the Russian side of the border was part of an agreement aimed at deescalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine. They were invited amid Kiev’s claims that Russia supplies arms and military vehicles to the armed militia fighting against the Ukrainian troops in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

The monitors were supposed to be deployed after a ceasefire by Kiev, but Moscow agreed to host them unconditionally as a gesture of goodwill.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Kiev must publish record of MH17 communications with traffic control – Russia

RT | August 19, 2014

Kiev should make public the records of communications between the Ukrainian air traffic control and the Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in the hours before it was shot down over Ukraine’s turbulent east, Russia’s UN envoy said.

The issue was among several Russia raised at a UN Security Council meeting, which was called by Russia to discuss the progress of the investigation into the tragic incident, which killed 298 people in July, Vitaly Churkin said. Moscow sees the shortage of proper evidence known to the public so far as wrong.

“As far as we know, [UN’s civil aviation watchdog] ICAO is being kept on the sidelines of the investigation, which has been conducted for some time,” Churkin said.

Churkin added that Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who is to visit Kiev soon, would ask the Ukrainian government about the communications records between air traffic controllers and the plane.

“We have agreed that he would vent this issue among others,” Churkin said. “How are the Ukrainians playing their part in the international investigation? What comes to mind: they must provide the records of communications of their air traffic controllers so that we could understand why they directed the Malaysian plane into the conflict zone.”

A preliminary report into the downing of MH17 is expected later this month. According to Britain’s envoy to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, the report would not be classified. After its publication some two months would be given to all parties interested to make their comments on the document.

The investigation into the downing of the Malaysian Boeing-777 plane was hampered by continued hostilities in the area of the crash site, as Ukrainian troops and rebel forces failed to provide a lasting ceasefire there. Both sides blamed each other for this, with either side accusing the other of trying to cover-up the crime.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Reactions from leading experts on latest UN Commission on Gaza

By Shazia Arshad | MEMO | August 18, 2014

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced last week the formation of a commission to investigate the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. The panel will be headed by William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law. The UN has said that the panel will be investigating human rights violations and potential war crimes. Whilst Israel has described the panel as a “kangaroo court”, Hamas has welcomed the setup of the commission. Hamas’ spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation [Israel] against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible.”

The commission has already met with some controversy though with the appointment of its leading lawyer William Schabas. Schabas has been described by some critics as anti-Israel. An advert run in the New York Times describes him as not only anti-Israel but a “friend of Ahmadinejad”. It seems the most irking thing about his appointment was Schabas’ former involvement in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which concluded that Israel has committed well documented violations of international law. Schabas countered the argument that he is anti-Israel by citing that he has been on the board of the Israel Law Review.

This in turn has raised some concerns; one leading lawyer, Francis A Boyle a former legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation told MEMO that Schabas’ appointment could be of concern to the Palestinians given his role on the Israel Law Review Board. Either way Schabas’ appointment is causing waves and his role in the Commission will almost certainly be under inspection. Boyle’s concerns however were not limited to the experts involved, he went on to say that “will be an exercise an (sic) damage control and damage limitation on behalf of Israel and very well could be used to hurt the Palestinians.”

The commissions’ findings might be hard to predict, but one thing that has been widely commented on during the assault on Gaza has been the disproportionate action by Israel. Killing almost 2,000 civilians and injuring nearly 10,000 the effect on the Gaza Strip would be intolerable by any standards. And with the Strip facing its third war in six years, it has come under increasing humanitarian strain, having barely had a chance to recover before being hit again.

With even members of the British government such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying “is difficult to deny that Israel’s military action appears disproportionate and, combined with the Gaza blockade, is resulting in the collective suffering of the Palestinian people”, it is clear that the Gazans have had to pay a heavy price as a result of Israel’s actions. Over the last six years this heavy price has been a burden without any justice for the Palestinian people.

After Operation Cast Lead a UN Fact Finding Mission was established to investigate the events that had taken place in Gaza. The Goldstone Report essentially accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Israel rejected the findings of the report and though the report received a great deal of international backing its findings were not implemented. During that fact finding mission Israel refused to engage with the UN Fact Finding team. Almost immediately after the UN’s announcement that they would be establishing this most recent commission Israel dismissed it as being biased against Israel.

If recent history is anything to go by, it is not surprising that there are some concerns from leading experts that this commission could face difficulties during its investigation. Leading international law expert, John Dugard told the Middle East Monitor that though he had full confidence in the mission he hoped that Israel would co-operate but he “fear(ed) that it would not”. Dugard also raised concerns about Egypt’s role, ” I hope Egypt will allow the Mission access to Gaza as it did with both Arab League Fact Finding Mission and Human Rights Council Mission in 2009″. He also went on to say the he hoped European states would keep an open mind but noted that this was “too much to expect of the USA”.

It’s not just Israel’s reaction and response to the mission that observers will be monitoring. The UKs position during the conflicts in Gaza has come under intense scrutiny. After the Goldstone report, the UK’s response to it was heavily criticised. With Israel forcefully lobbying UN members to vote against the Goldstone report, the UK chose not to vote. Despite increasing pressure from MPs in the UK, the then Labour government took the decision not to vote either way on the report – although it did not officially abstain from voting.

This time around the UK’s action will be even more closely watched, especially as leading politicians take a strong stance against Israel’s actions. One top politician, Baroness Warsi resigned over the UK’s policy on Gaza. Lord David Steele, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, expressed his support for the commission when he told MEMO “I just hope that more international attention will be paid to this report than was the case with the Goldstone report.”

The National Lawyers Guild also welcomed the commission and told MEMO that they were pleased that the UNHRC had launched an investigation into Israel’s “criminal behaviour”. But they too echoed concerns about the history of the Goldstone report itself saying, “we expect that any objective investigation would – like the Goldstone Report -condemn the Israeli assault and recommend prosecution of its military and political leaders.”

“We further expect that Israel, shielded by the United States, would once again ignore the report. To end Israel’s impunity its leaders must be investigated and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, alongside US leaders who aided and abetted them. We are sending a letter to that effect to the ICC Prosecutor.”

Calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate will in itself prove to be difficult. Reports on Monday suggested that the ICC was under pressure not to open an investigation into war crimes in Gaza as a result of pressure from the US. These reports argue that Fatou Bensouda, ICC chief prosecutor, will not put forward an investigation unless the Palestinians submit a new request. A former request from 2009 will not be accepted.

If the ICC does investigate this would push this commission’s results much further than the Goldstone report. Hina Jilani, one of the members of the Goldstone fact finding mission, told MEMO that “mechanisms for accountability were created at the international level to ensure the respect for the rule of law, when it is evident that national governments are either unwilling or unable to hold genuine accountability. If the international community shies away from the use of these mechanisms, it becomes complicit in the denial of justice to the victims.”

Commenting on the commission Jilani said, “the newly established Commission of Inquiry on Gaza established by the Human Rights Council at its Special Session on 23 July 2014 is certainly welcome. However, its efforts can only be fruitful if accountability of those responsible for any violations they find, is ensured. That would not be possible unless the international community has an unequivocal resolve to end impunity as well as tolerance for any acts that violate international law, especially those causing deliberate harm to civilians at times of war.”

Leading UN figures have already raised concerns, the UN Secretary –General Ban Ki-moon said that Israel had been guilty of violations of international law and Navi Pillay UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Israel had deliberately defied international law. Jilani said that “no one must be allowed to sabotage or divert efforts towards peace. Nor must these be de-linked from imperatives of accountability and justice. The rule of law must prevail and impunity for international crimes and gross violations of international law must end. The 2009 report of the Gaza Fact Finding Mission had observed that, “justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace.”

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli ship blockade continues in California


Al-Akhbar | August 19, 2014

US activists blocked an Israeli cargo ship from unloading at a California port for the third day in a row in protest of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, organizers of the action reported late Monday.

The vessel, owned and operated by Israeli company Zim Shipping Services, has been trying to unload Israeli cargo in the port of Oakland since Saturday.

Thousands of protesters prevented the ship from unloading on Saturday, with the cooperation of dock workers who refused to unload the boat.

The ship has failed to unload its cargo despite attempting various tactics, including delaying its arrival time until the early morning hours. About a dozen activists continued to hold off the ship early Monday morning, according to activist sources.

One activist who spoke to Al Jazeera said the organizers were thinking of making the block a regular action, as Israeli ships arrive in the port every Saturday.

The blockade is supported by the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Unions, a group which also stood against the South African apartheid regime in 1984.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Liberal Zionist Dilemma

By Lawrence Davidson | To the Point Analyses | August 19, 2014

Part I – The Liberal Ideal

Liberalism, framed as a socio-political ideal, argues that human beings are good and social progress achievable. It is a “glass half-full” outlook. Within this paradigm all individuals, not just members of a specific religion, race or nationality, should have political and civil rights. Here also neither the state nor the law is an end in itself. They are instruments for the creation and maintainance of a environment meant to promote freedom while minimizing social inequalities. Holding this ideal does not preclude identifying with a particular ethnic or religious group. It does, however, preclude any claim of exclusive rights for such groups to the detriment of others.

Within the Western environment many Jews held to this liberal ideal. They saw it as in their interest to work toward an environment of universally applied political and civil rights while minimizing social inequality. For instance, by the mid-twentieth century in the United States, many Jewish organizations were allied with African Americans in their struggle for civil rights and equality. However, this proved to be a complex alliance and it ultimately broke down. Its demise marked a waning of organized American Jewish liberal activism. What had happened?

Part of the answer became apparent after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. At that time many civil rights leaders in the U.S. noticed that Israel was not, after all, a very liberal society. It was designed exclusively for one group and discriminated against those who were not members of that group. When this became a subject of concern and debate within the civil rights community, many Jewish organizations broke with the movement and its struggle. How about Jewish liberal individuals? They were now confronted with one of three choices: (1) retain a principled adherence to the liberal ideal and cease their uncritical support of the Zionist state, (2) renounce the liberal ideal and continue their whole-hearted support for illiberal Israel, or (3) become quiet in public while fretting in private about the evolving racist nature of Israel. It seems many of them took the third option.

Part II – An Old Dilemma

Given this history it is simply wrong to think of the present dilemma faced by Jewish liberals over Israeli behavior as something new. So-called liberal Zionists such as Peter Beinart, Amos Oz, Ari Shavit and Jonathan Freedland have certainly known for decades that the notion of civil and political rights for Jews and non-Jews equally was not an aim of the Zionist movement and therefore stood little chance of shaping the behavior of the Israeli state. Yet here we are, following three massive invasions of Gaza and its inhumane blockade, repeated massacres of Palestinian civilians going back at least as far as Israel’s “war of independence,” decades of continuous land theft and illegal settlement, and more than sixty years of an Israeli-inspired police state environment on the West Bank, confronting a suddenly newsworthy liberal Zionist dilemma.

One argument given to explain this belated display of liberal Zionist angst is that only recently have such individuals decided that the two-state solution is in real jeopardy. As this argument goes, as long as a two-state solution was possible, liberal Zionists could hope for the realization of both Jewish and Palestinian political and civil rights within their respective two states. But this explanation is misleading. It is incorrect to think of the two-state solution as only recently at death’s door. In truth, if this solution was ever alive and possible (which is questionable), it was killed off the moment Menachem Begin lied to President Jimmy Carter about the granting of progressive “autonomy” to the Palestinians. That was 1979. That otherwise quite knowledgeable Zionists as those mentioned above did not know this is hard to believe.

So why is this liberal dilemma an issue now? A more accurate answer might lie with changing public opinion. It has only been in the last ten years or so that the Zionist storyline on the Israeli-Palestine conflict has lost its monopoly. In that same time frame the boycott movement has also become a worldwide affair. As Israel’s illiberal character becomes more public, option 3 noted above becomes harder to maintain. As Jonathan Freedman tells us in his New York Review of Books article, “The Liberal Zionists,” these folks are now attacked from all sides. The Zionist movement is, if you will, circling their wagons and no longer finds liberal complaints tolerable, even in private. They want everyone out there saluting the Israeli flag.

The Israeli author and columnist Ari Shavit shows us where these extreme nationalist pressures will likely lead those still trying to square the circle of liberalism and Zionism. In his recent book My Promised Land  he writes, “The choice is stark, either reject Zionism [the Zionist State of Israel] because of Lydda [an example of the massacre of civilians by Israeli forces], or accept Zionism [the Zionist state] along with Lydda. … If need be, I will stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasn’t for them, the state of Israel would not have been born. … They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter and my sons to live.”  So much for the liberal ideal.

Part III – Facing Contradiction

In truth the term “liberal Zionist” has never made much sense. The only way to explain its survival is to consider the survival of the Zionist storyline itself – the story of Israel as a democracy upholding the Western model in the Middle East. As long as one believed that this was true, one could dismiss Israeli brutality as just occasional slippage from progressive political and civil principles supposedly underlying the state. Within this context, there could be liberal Zionists privately decrying occasional Israeli bad behavior. But the Zionist storyline was not true. We never were dealing with just occasional slippage but rather with the inherent brutality of a state with policies and practices designed to bring about racist ends (a nation exclusively for one group)  – while conjuring up a remarkably durable cover story that it was, after all, a liberal democracy. The Israeli right, as well as the Palestinians, always knew the cover story was a sham. Now, with the recent Gaza slaughter, much of the rest of the world does too. That public unveiling, along with the Zionist demands for uncritical loyalty, leaves the liberals in a wholly untenable situation.

You simply cannot adhere to the principle of universal civil and political rights and, at the same time, support a Zionist state. To do so is to involve oneself in a contradiction. The liberals are being forced to face this fact. And, as this happens, they will have to make a real choice: cease being Zionist or cease adhering to the liberal ideal. I suspect that, along with Ari Shavit, most of them will decide to “stand with the damned.”

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment