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CrossTalk: Ukraine’s Destinies

RT | April 6, 2016

The Netherlands is holding an advisory referendum on a key treaty between the European Union and Ukraine. This vote is important for a number of reasons – it is a unique opportunity to face head-on what many call the EU’s democracy deficit. Also, we will find out if the West’s institutionalized anti-Russia bias reflects the popular will.

CrossTalking with Ben Aris, Gilbert Doctorow, and Joost Niemoller.

See also:

Dutch Voters Reject Ukraine Deal

Consortium News | April 7, 2016

Dutch voters struck a blow against the E.U.’s Ukrainian association agreement – and the incessant Russia-bashing that has surrounded it – creating hope for less belligerence in Europe, writes Gilbert Doctorow. – Read article

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netherlands referendum: What does the Dutch vote mean for Britain’s EU debate?

RT | April 6, 2016

Dutch citizens are taking part in a referendum on an EU-Ukraine treaty, but pundits say the vote marks an important test of public opinion on the EU. RT explains what is happening in the Netherlands and how it could affect Britain.

People of the Netherlands are being asked to decide whether to back a treaty which seeks to strengthen ties with Ukraine. That’s what the referendum is technically about, at any rate.

But pundits say the vote, which is only the third referendum in Dutch history, is really a litmus test on the EU.

What is the Netherlands’ referendum about?

Dutch voters will decide whether or not to approve a treaty between the EU and Ukraine. The agreement seeks to strengthen economic and political ties between the 28-nation bloc and Kiev.

The treaty also proposes a number of defense and security agreements.

Why is it taking place?

In September, a group of young satirists at the website GeenStijl collected over 450,000 signatures to force the Netherlands to hold a non-binding referendum concerning the EU’s planned association agreement with Kiev.

Under Dutch law, any petition that gains more than 300,000 is enough to trigger such a vote.

“Have you ever been asked what you think of such an expansion of the EU?” asked the website at the time, noting this is one of the major gripes among the Dutch population.

Is that all there is to it?

The Dutch people view the referendum as a test of public opinion on the EU, with many voters using it as a chance to protest against the bloc’s expansion and what they consider top-down decision making.

Will it impact Britain’s referendum on the EU?

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage believes the ‘Leave’ campaign will be emboldened by a Dutch rejection of the treaty.

However he also accepted a ‘Yes’ vote on Wednesday would be a blow to the Brexit campaign.

Writing in Breitbart on Tuesday, Farage said: “I have a feeling that what [GreenStijl ] have achieved in the Netherlands could serve as a useful template for even more radical change in our democracy in the not too distant future.”

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Dutch Voters Reject Ukraine Deal

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | April 7, 2016

On this overcast Thursday morning in Brussels, the political capital of Europe, rays of bright sunshine are breaking through from the east as the latest results of vote counting in neighboring Netherlands suggest that Wednesday’s referendum against the European Union’s Association Agreement with Ukraine won two out of every three votes and passed the 30 percent participation requirement of all eligible voters to be considered valid.

If those results are confirmed by the official results – to be released on April 12 – this referendum marks a resounding defeat for the Brussels-led conspiracy to pursue Russia-bashing policies of sanctions and information warfare without consulting public opinion at home.

To change metaphors and speak in terms of Dutch folklore, it is the first crack in the dam that many of us have been waiting for, the opportunity for common sense to prevail over the illogic, hubris and plain pigheadedness of those who control the E.U. institutions in Brussels, and afar from Berlin and Washington.

While the referendum was formally just “advisory,” both the public statements of parliamentarians and the acknowledgements of the Dutch government ahead of the voting indicated that it will force a new vote in parliament on ratification and likely send Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Brussels hat in hand, requesting a renegotiation of the Association Agreement.

As such, it may bring the E.U. foreign policy machinery to a shuddering halt and open the illogic of all its policies towards its eastern borderlands over the past several years to public scrutiny and, possibly, to revision.

However, whether this was the decisive moment when the E.U. is brought to its senses or just the first of a series of knock-out blows directed at the political correctness and group think that have been driving policy ever since the coup d’etat in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, its importance cannot be overstated.

We have been hearing for more than a year that the Russia-bashing policies – the sanctions in particular – were opposed by a growing minority of E.U. member states. Among the dissenters named at one point or other have been Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. Then came Bavaria, within Germany, whose minister-president Horst Seehofer just months ago flouted the policies of Chancellor Merkel and paid court to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. On Wednesday, the president of Austria did the same.

And yet, despite all the fine words to reporters about how the sanctions violate the basic economic interests of their countries and of Europe as a whole, none of these statesmen broke ranks when the sanctions repeatedly came up for renewal. The significance of Wednesday’s vote in The Netherlands was that this time the people spoke, not their elected or appointed officials. This was a consultation to remember.

In effect, the referendum played out at two levels. At the domestic level, it was a power struggle between the mainstream centrist parties in The Netherlands who stand for a “go with the flow” approach on E.U. decisions and decision-making, versus the Euroskeptic extremes on the left and especially on the right.

On the right, Geerd Wilders and his Freedom Party want to put a stick in the gears of the E.U. machinery and halt the slow-motion, seemingly unstoppable move towards greater union, indeed towards federalism that have gained momentum ever since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. In that sense, the vote foreshadows the campaign fight of the parliamentary elections that will take place in The Netherlands in 2017.

At the same time, the referendum had a geopolitical dimension going way beyond the spoils of office, as a proxy battle in The Netherlands between those who favor a pro-U.S./pro-NATO approach versus those seeking improved relations with Moscow.

In both dimensions, the particulars of the E.U.’s Association Agreement with Ukraine that runs several thousand pages were not the real issue on the ballot. All of which begs the question of what exactly Prime Minister Rutte will eventually be asking the E.U. Commission to renegotiate.

The signs are multiplying that the E.U. consensus on foreign policy driven by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is nearing collapse. Within Germany itself, her detractors are becoming ever bolder. Earlier this week, the German newspapers were carrying on their front pages news of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s invitation to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to visit him at his home next week.

This move is seen as a direct rebuke to Merkel and her policy of open-arms to refugees from Syria and the Middle East, a policy that Orban led a number of new Member States in opposing.

The next big test for the European Union, and the next opportunity to deal a severe blow to its complacent leadership in Brussels will be the Brexit referendum in the U.K. at the end of June.

NB: the issues in the referendum were the featured topic in RT’s Cross Talk show released on 6 April during which I expanded on these points and on the criminal folly of EU policy on Ukraine:

For a video discussion about the Dutch referendum, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCAsC_dw8wY



Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Escalated: In Pursuit of Hidden Agenda

By Pyotr ISKENDEROV – Strategic Culture Foundation – 06.04.2016

The sudden aggravation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is fraught with serious consequences. The warring sides, as well as the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group, have to realize that the situation may get out of hand and entail irreversible consequences against the will of the belligerents.

Armenian First Deputy Defense Minister David Tonoyan said in a statement made at the Sunday (April 3) briefing with foreign defense attaches that Armenia is ready for any scenario as the events unfold, «including direct military assistance to the security of the Nagorno-Karabakh republic».

The statement indicates that things will never be the same as before, especially after Turkey, Pakistan and some other countries have voiced their support for Azerbaijan. Once made public, the statements cannot be taken back. The development of events suggests that some forces pursue a hidden agenda in an effort to unfreeze the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and make the escalation irreversible.

In recent years, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh worsened from time to time, but it never escalated to large-scale operations involving aviation and heavy equipment. Moreover, decisions to start combat actions can not be taken in absence of state leaders. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan were in Washington when the situation escalated overnight on April 2.

The outside factors probably play a much bigger role than it may seem at first glance.

Evidently, some countries, like Russia, for instance, have no interest in the escalation of the conflict in the Caucasus. Moscow plays the leading role in the crisis management efforts. It has always strived for developing mutually beneficial ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The aggravation of the conflict creates a problem for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia is a member of the CSTO, which is to defend it if attacked. But the organization has no obligations to defend the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Article 4 of the Treaty states «If an aggression is committed against one of the States Parties by any state or a group of states, it will be considered as an aggression against all the States Parties to this Treaty. In case an act of aggression is committed against any of the States Parties, all the other States Parties will render it necessary assistance, including military one, as well as provide support with the means at their disposal through an exercise of the right to collective defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter».

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not covered by the Treaty, but the broad interpretation of its text may lead to misunderstanding inside the CSTO between Russia and Armenia on the one hand, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the other hand.

Obviously, the bloodshed does not meet the interests of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, outside forces have entered a «window of opportunity» to incite Baku.

Now who gains as a result of Azerbaijan’s involvement in the conflict? There are at least three parties to benefit.

Turkey tops the list. Having suffered a defeat in Syria and in face of growing impact of the Kurdish factor, Erdogan could go as far as sparking the Caucasian hotbed to entangle Russia. His plans may envision provoking a confrontation between the Russian Federation and NATO. If so, he could have given certain assurances and guarantees to Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev during his visit to Turkey on March 15.

Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper warned about possible escalation of the conflict in February.

The information was confirmed by the fact that the air forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey held March 7-25 joint military exercises TurAz Shahini-2016 in the Turkish province of Konya as part of the TurAz Qartali program of military cooperation. The exercises were held in accordance with the annual plan of joint training events that kicked off last September.

The United States, or, to be more precise, the circles in Washington interested in keeping up tensions in the relationship with Moscow, is the second party, which has a stake in the conflict’s flare up. The goal is to weaken the Collective Security Treaty Organization and create snugs on the way of post-Soviet space integration. Sparking a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is the best way to do it.

The third party interested in the conflict is the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, especially Qatar. This country has close ties with Turkey. It challenges Saudi Arabia as the leader of the organization. Besides, there are heightened tensions between the Gulf Cooperation Council members and Iran. Iranian Azerbaijanis account for 15-16% of the country’s population. Tehran has had good relations with Erevan ever since early 1990s. Like Russia, it has no interest in inciting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Qatar and Turkey enjoy special relationship. They are known for tacit support of Muslim Brotherhood. It would be logical to surmise that both countries coordinate policies on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Azerbaijan and the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh said on April 5 they were halting hostilities after four days of intense fighting.

The world community pins great hopes on the ability of the OSCE to prevent the worst from happening .

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20 years since the Qana massacre and Naftali Benet is Education Minister

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By Miko Peled | American Herald Tribune | April 7, 2016

Naftali Bennet, Israel’s minister of education was the first public official to come out in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who executed Abdel Fatah Alsharif as he lay wounded in Hebron. Bennet was critical of the government of which he is a member for not standing up for the soldier. I was listening to the interview with Bennet on Israeli television where he made the argument that the government and the press judged the soldier harshly and prematurely. Then he said something I never thought I’d hear.

“Maybe the soldier did make a mistake; you know I also made a mistake. During Grapes of Wrath, Operation Grapes of Wrath I was apparently mistaken and a very difficult thing happened.”  A very difficult thing happened. Interesting choice of words and interesting timing: It is exactly twenty-years since the massacre in Qana village in Southern Lebanon, a massacre for which Bennet was responsible. He then went on to explain that, “in my case, I received the full backing of the commanding general and the army chief of staff.”  In fact he was backed by the entire chain of command going all the way up to the Prime Minister (and Nobel laureate), Shimon Peres.

Bennet was talking about the shelling by Israeli forces of the UN compound in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. It took place on April 18, 1996 when hundreds of local Lebanese were seeking shelter at the compound. Of the 800 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge in the compound, a reported 106 were killed and 116 were injured. The attack occurred amid fighting between the Israeli army and Hezbollah during operation “Grapes of Wrath.” There was evidence that an Israeli drone was spying on the compound before the shelling, making the argument that this may have been an error, unlikely at best. Clearly all levels of the IDF command knew that the compound was there and that it served as shelter for refugees escaping the fighting. The building was clearly marked as a UN compound and was even marked on the Israeli maps. Bennet who was commander of an Israeli army reconnaissance unit called for massive artillery shelling of the site.

Graves just outside the UN base at Qana cb791

The BBC described the massacre as: “one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict.” Robert Fisk who reported from the site wrote, “Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this.”

Fisk’s descriptions of what he saw are not for the weak at heart but must be read and remembered. Over and over we hear the phrase “never again,” yet Israel commits one heinous massacre after another and gets away with it, usually absolved by the US. In this case the main culprit is known, he admits his responsibility and yet not only did he go unpunished, he is unrepentant and is now in charge of the Israeli ministry of education. How ironic. Again Fisk’s description, “The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled. There were well over a hundred of them […] The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world’s protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.” And Fisk continues, “Now the Israelis are stained again by the bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine.”

Naftali Bennet was quoted as saying that he had killed many Arabs in his time and feels no remorse, and in his view “a soldier in the battlefield can not commit murder.” In a speech in the Knesset Bennet said he killed many terrorists during his military service and he wishes he had killed more. Bennet never saw an Arab he did not consider to be a terrorist, and therefore fair game. “Arabs are murdering Jews every day,” he said as he defended the execution in Hebron. An important piece of information that is completely ignored is that another soldier shot Abdel Fatah first, even though he was unarmed and his hands were raised, and only later did Elor Azaria execute him. Bennet called the scene as a “battle ground” and the shooting perfectly legitimate because according to him “Viscous Palestinian terrorists are coming out every day to kill Jews.”

The result of Bennet’s call for the shelling in Qana, according to Fisk, was “The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound […] in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon – who had heeded Israel’s order to leave their homes – had pathetically sought shelter.” Once the news of the shelling had got out, relatives started arriving from other parts of Lebanon to look for loved ones. Their grief and anger were forceful, “we had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners, Israel’s allies” Fisk writes, and he continues, “one bearded man with fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury: […] “I would like to be made into a bomb and blow myself up amid the Israelis” the man cried.

The story of the Qana massacre was brought up during the Israeli elections of 2015, because Bennet was the head of one of the parties running. Claims were made that the “incident” was evidence that he had “poor judgment.” Today, twenty years and countless massacres later a man who knowingly brought about the gruesome killing of countless innocents is in charge of educating Israeli children and is defending the execution of a young Palestinian. And yet, the one man that everyone is calling a terrorist is one who committed no act violence at all: the young Abdel Fatah Alsharif, may he rest in peace.

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Report Accusing Russia of Bombing Syrian Hospitals ‘Lacks Hard Data’

Sputnik — 07.04.2016

WASHINGTON – A new report from the US-based think tank Atlantic Council accusing Russia of deliberately bombing hospitals during its anti-terrorists campaign in Syria has no hard data to back up its questionable claims and comes from an organization notorious for its propaganda against Russia, US analysts told Sputnik.

“This publication from the Atlantic Council claims that it is based on ‘analysis of open source and social media intelligence (OSSMINT).’ This OSSMINT is a field completely invented by [report co-author Eliot] Higgins,” Helena Cobban, a leading US expert on modern Syria and veteran Middle East correspondent, said.

However, the so-called OSSMINT materials, presented on Tuesday, are a misleading mixture of unreliable sources using a methodology that has never been seriously accepted, Cobban pointed out.

“OSSMINT consists of little more than capturing and aggregating claims made by anyone [that Higgins] chooses on social media; and over any sub-sample of a time period that he chooses to focus on. It’s an echo chamber for whatever he chooses to echo,” she noted.

Higgins’ methodology in the report mixed reliable and verifiable information with unverifiable anecdotal claims of the most dubious accuracy, Cobban said.

“It’s worth underlining that by relying on both open source information and on what [Higgins] calls ‘social media intelligence,’ which is completely unverifiable, his method is completely unscientific,” she pointed out.

Serious reconnaissance photographic data about the pattern of Russia and US airstrikes over Syria was potentially available, yet the Atlantic Council report cited none whatsoever, Cobban observed.

“Every government intelligence service with constant satellite surveillance over Syria… [including the United States, Russia and Israel] would be able to provide… solid numbers and figures about the location and authorship of the major military actions taken in Syria over the past 30 months. This report uses no such data,” she said.

Higgins had a strong history of partisanship in favor of the anti-government forces in Syria and has never had, nor had he claimed any formal training in military affairs or military science, Cobban noted.

“In August 2013, [Higgins] and his blog became some of the main actors accusing the Syrian government of having used chemical weapons against the rebels near Damascus,” she pointed out.

Higgins’ false claim was widely spread and nearly catapulted the United States and United Kingdom into launching airstrikes against the Syrian government, Cobban recalled.

However, that analysis was within days challenged and disproven by a team of real specialists in ballistics led by the veteran MIT military-tech specialist Theodore Postol, Cobban added.

University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle told Sputnik that the pattern of wild accusations using alleged evidence is based on no serious, accepted methodology reflecting the anti-Russian bias of the body that published it.

“The Atlantic Council is a well-known anti-Russian, anti-Putin propaganda organization. Caveat lector [‘Let the reader beware’]” he said.

Russia started its counter-terrorism operation in Syria in September 2015, at the request by Syrian President Bashar Assad. On March 15, Russia began withdrawing the largest bulk of its military from Syria after accomplishing its objectives.

The Russian Defense Ministry issued daily reports on the results of its air campaign in Syria and released footage showing its air force striking targets.

See also:

Reconnaissance Data Shows Airstrikes on Syrian Hospital ‘Launched by US-Led Coalition Aircraft’

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Air Force struck Yemeni marketplace with US bombs – Report

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RT | April 7, 2016

Two bombs dropped by the Saudi Arabian Air Force on a crowded marketplace in Yemen on March 15 were American-made, claims Human Rights Watch (HRW). The UN estimates the death toll to be at least 97 dead, among them 25 children.

HRW examined the bomb blast fragmentations found at the site and determined they came from a US-made “GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a US-supplied MK-84 2,000lb bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also US-supplied,” HRW’s report says.

Since the beginning of the airstrikes of the Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition in March 2015, there have been 12 airstrikes inflicted on marketplaces throughout Yemen.

88bcf640-b609-4414-ab75-c81a1a454506HRW calls on to the US to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia until Riyadh ends unlawful airstrikes.

“One of the deadliest strikes against civilians in Yemen’s year-long war involved US-supplied weapons, illustrating tragically why countries should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, emergency researcher at HRW.

Mastaba, a village in Yemen’s northern Hajja governorate, some 45km from the Saudi border, was attacked at noon. Two bombs were dropped successively with a short period. The first blasted right in front of a complex of shops and a restaurant, the second exploded a short while later near the entrance to the market, within the crowd fleeing the airstrike, HRW reports.

The airstrike in Mastaba reportedly also killed 10 Houthi rebel fighters, making the attack absolutely unprecedented in military-to-civilian death ratio, causing “disproportionate loss of civilian life, in violation of the laws of war.”

The UN children’s agency UNICEF put the death toll of Mastaba airstrikes even higher, proclaiming 119 people among dead, 22 children included.

Out of two local hospitals, a clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) received 45 wounded civilians from the market.

Since March 2015, the conflict in Yemen has claimed lives of about 6,300 people, over a half of them civilians, according to the UN estimates. Most of the people killed in Yemen died in Saudi-led coalition air strikes.

The next day after the deadly airstrike, the Saudi military spokesman for the coalition, General Ahmad al-Assiri, said the coalition attacked “a militia gathering,” saying though, that the airstrike site had been known as a place to buy qat, a mild stimulant plant widely chewed in Yemen, which means the coalition knew the airstrike hit a commercial area.

On March 18, al-Assiri told Reuters that targeting Mastaba site the coalition used reconnaissance information from Yemeni forces loyal to ousted President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and that the Houthis “deceived people by saying it was a market.”

April 7, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Literati want Israeli backing for New York festival dropped

Press TV – April 7, 2016

More than 100 prominent writers and literary figures have written a damning open letter to PEN American Center, urging it “to reject support from the Embassy of Israel” for the week-long World Voices Festival (PWVF) in New York at the end of this month.

“It is deeply regrettable that the festival has chosen to accept sponsorship from Israel, even as it intensifies its decades-long denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people, including the frequent targeting of Palestinian writers and journalists,” read the letter sent to PEN American Center and other festival participants in March, which was published online on Wednesday.

PEN American Center, based in New York, is the largest of the 144 centers that belong to PEN International, the worldwide association of prominent writers and editors that defends those who are harassed, imprisoned and killed for expressing their views.

The letter added that both Palestinian and international journalists and writers face heightened levels of repression by the Tel Aviv regime.

“In 2015, Israel denied Palestinian American novelist Susan Abulhawah entry into Palestine, and African American writer Kristian Davis Bailey was racially profiled, arrested and harassed by Israeli authorities, when he attempted to visit Palestine. All these incidents are part of a broader pattern of Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinian artists and cultural workers as well as the suppression of voices supportive of Palestinian rights,” it pointed out.

Among the writers who have signed onto the letter are Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Richard Ford and Junot Diaz, plus award-winning author Louise Erdrich.

Former president and vice president of English PEN, Gillian Slovo and Kamila Shamsie, poet Eileen Myles, authors Louise Erdrich and Ahdaf Soueif, and the Palestinian writer Ahmad Qatamesh, whose administrative detention by Israeli authorities was slammed by PEN International, also put their names on the letter.

The letter was sent to PEN American Center by Adalah, a non-profit group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“As a PEN member, I want this organization that is supposed to be a champion of writers’ rights to stand up for Palestinian writers, academics and students who are suffering under a repressive Israeli regime that denies their right to freedom of expression,” said American writer Alice Walker, author of the critically-acclaimed novel the Color Purple.

Marilyn Hacker, recipient of PEN Voelcker award for poetry and PEN award for poetry in translation, also stated that “PEN should have policies and ethical standards in place forbidding partnerships with significant human rights abusers. On that basis alone, PEN should rule out a partnership with Israel.”

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s 2015 military exports topped $5.7 billion

Press TV – April 7, 2016

Israel’s military export contracts exceeded $5.7 billion last year with Europe receiving the second largest portion of the sales worth $1.6 billion, Tel Aviv says.

The Israeli ministry of military affairs made the announcement in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the figure was up from $5.66 billion in 2014.

The statement also said that most of the exports, nearly 50 percent of the total or $2.3 billion, had gone to Asia and the Pacific.

Among these exports was Israel’s sale of 10 armed Heron drones to India, which was worth $400 million alone.

Most of the exports included aircraft upgrades and maintenance, as well as aerospace systems, which amounted to 14 percent of all new contracts. Radar and electronic systems came in second with 12 percent.

Drones, satellites, and naval systems were also among military exports from Israel, which is one of the world’s top 10 exporters of military equipment.

The announcement came just one day after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released new figures showing that the world military expenditure totaled almost $1.7 trillion in 2015, a rise of one percent from the previous year.

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | | 2 Comments

Jewish settlers expropriate Palestinian garden as police stand by

International Solidarity Movement | April 4, 2016   

Tel Rumeida, al Khalil, occupied Palestine On Saturday 3rd of April 2016 settlers entered land belonging to Muhammad Abu Haikal in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron on the occupied West Bank in Palestine. The settler children built a tent and then brought other settlers who prayed and ate there. It took more than four hours from when the police arrived until the settlers actually left, still claiming that it was their land and running around so that the police would not be able to evict them.

The first young settler kids arrived at the land at around 9 o’clock in the morning and started building a tent out of wood and sheets that they had found and playing on the land. They were actually playing in Muhammad Abu Haikal’s garden, but the end of the garden has been declared a closed military area by the Israeli Occupation Forces, who have made a military outpost in the garden and cut off the end of it of with barbed wire. The settler children entered the garden using the staircase that has been built for the soldiers to reach the outpost: they stamped down the barbed wire and covered it with a piece of wood to prevent themselves from getting injured.

Settlers and their children trespassing illegally on Palestinian land.

Later on, while the family was trying to pick almonds from trees in the part of the garden that is not a closed military Area, the settler children returned with a number of  adult settlers and more children. Muhammed Abu Haikal and the internationals present asked the settlers to leave the land, but they refused. He then contacted the police.

After the police arrived, the settlers once again claimed to be the owners of the land, with the right to remain there. The Palestinian family was asked to step back and had to stop harvesting their garden. Not until after the settlers had prayed on the land multiple times, brought food and played ball there, did the  police finally try to get them to leave. The police asked all Palestinians and internationals to leave as well, as they said, “it is impossible to make Israelis leave, if there are Palestinians on the land”. It then took the police over two hours to evict the settlers. They then removed the materials that the children had left on the part of the land that is not a closed military area, but refused to pull down the tent, because, they said,  it was not allowed on Shabbat.

Finally the soldiers closed off the closed military area with more barbed wire and allowed the family back into their garden. If Palestinians had been trespassing on settlers land, which is illegally occupied, they would probably have been arrested immediately, but when it is the other way around, which it usually is, the police do not use any kind of force.

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Call to Action: Palestinian Prisoners’ Day 2016

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samidoun – Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network

On 17 April each year, Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian people, and the world mark the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners.

Commemorated since 1974, when the first Palestinian prisoner, Mahmoud Hijazi, was freed in a prisoner exchange with the Palestinian Resistance, 17 April is a day of protests, rallies, marches, forums and more to commemorate the struggle of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli occupation jails and demand their freedom.

We join with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement in calling on organizations and people of conscience around the world to take action on 17 April to express your solidarity and call for freedom for Palestinian political prisoners.

Over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in Israeli jails. More than 700 of them are held in administrative detention without charge or trial. The others face military courts which convict over 99% of the Palestinians that appear before them. Over 400 Palestinian children as young as 12 years old are held in Israeli prisons.

Every night, Israeli occupation forces conduct violent armed invasions of Palestinian villages, cities, refugee camps and homes, ransacking them and arresting dozens of Palestinians. This comes amid near-daily killings and extrajudicial execution of Palestinians by occupation forces, the demolition of the homes of the families of Palestinian prisoners, new racist laws targeting Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, and further escalating repression.

International action has seen some response: G4S, the British-Danish security corporation targeted for a global boycott because of its role in providing security systems, control rooms and equipment to Israeli prisons, has announced it is selling off its Israeli subsidiary and leaving the market entirely. However, it’s critical to keep the pressure on G4S until their equipment and security systems are no longer being used to imprison Palestinians, block their movement at checkpoints, or besiege Gaza.

G4S doesn’t only profit on the imprisonment of Palestinians, of course. Black student movements at Columbia University, the University of California and Cornell University have led in building campus boycotts and divestment against G4S because of its role in private imprisonment in the United States, especially of youth, and have won significant victories. Organizing with movements confronting imprisonment and racist oppression, including the Black movement and the prison divestment movement, is particularly crucial in confronting common oppressors; the Black4Palestine statement identified G4S as a strong common target for struggle. Confronting racism and oppression of all forms comes hand in hand with confronting Zionist settler-colonial racism in Palestine.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Day this year also comes amid international repression of Palestinian organizing – for example, the attacks on BDS in France and the arrest and prosecution of BDS activists – and the imprisonment and persecution of Palestinians and fellow strugglers in international prisons, as in the cases of Georges Ibrahim Abdullah, the Holy Land Five, and Rasmea Odeh.

On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day 2016, key issues facing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons include:

  • Solitary confinement: nearly 20 Palestinians are being held in long-term solitary confinement, a form of torture. They are demanding return to general population.
  • Administrative detention: over 700 Palestinians are imprisoned without charge or trial under administrative detention, often targeting community leaders and activists like Eteraf Rimawi, circus teacher Mohammed Abu Sakha, or journalist Musab Kufaisheh.
  • Attacks on students: In the past weeks, Al-Quds University, the Arab American University and other Palestinian universities have been raided by Israeli occupation forces. Student leaders and activists at Bir Zeit University, Al-Quds University, An-Najah University and other institutions have been arrested and imprisoned, in an attempt to stifle student organizing and activism.
  • Torture and mistreatment: Nearly every Palestinian prisoner is subject to “legitimate” torture and abuse under interrogation, including lengthy periods of being held in painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, sexual threats and threats to family members, and direct beating and physical assaults. The vast majority of children arrested report experiencing physical and psychological torture and abuse at the hands of Israeli occupation soldiers and intelligence agents;

Take action for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day!

  1. Organize a protest at an Israeli consulate or embassy, a G4S office, or public square on Sunday, April 17 for Palestinian prisoners. Bring flyers and leaflets or signs, and call for freedom for Palestinian political prisoners. Or join with movements for prison divestment or other issues around racism and mass incarceration for joint protests against racist imprisonment of all kinds.
  1. Organize a forum or discussion about Palestinian prisoners. Help build awareness and action in support of Palestinian prisoners. Participants can also write letters to Palestinian prisoners.
  1. Screen a film – whether as a large event in a cinema, or a small get together in a home – on Palestinian prisoners. Titles include “Tell your tale, little bird,” “Women in Struggle,” “Hunger Strike,” “Palestine: la case prison,” “Degrees of Incarceration,” “A Path to Gaza Prison Camp,” “Lina,” “Detaining Dreams,” “Crayons of Askalan,” “Stone Cold Justice,” “Beyond the Walls,” “At the Heart of a Siege,” and “Stolen Youth.” The new feature film by Mai Masri, “3000 Nights,” focuses on the Palestinian experience of imprisonment.

Send your events to samidoun@samidoun.net or link them to Samidoun on Facebook, or tweet us at @SamidounPP.

Some events already happening for Prisoners’ Day include:

New York City
Friday, 15 April
Protest: Celebrate Resistance Before Palestinian Prisoners Day
4:00 pm
G4S Office, 19 W. 44th St, New York City

Milan
Friday, 15 April
Concert: Militant Rap for Palestinian Political Prisoners
7:00 pm
Centro Occupato Autogestito T28, Via dei Transiti 28, Milan, Italy

Brussels
Saturday, 16 April
Outdoor Event: Juggling for Mohammed Abu Sakha and Palestinian Prisoners
2:00 pm
Place de l’Albertine, Brussels

London
Saturday, 16 April
March: Palestinian Prisoners’ Parade
12:30 pm
Gower Street (Corner of Torrington Place), London, UK

Brussels
Sunday, 17 April
Manifestation: International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners
2:00 pm
Place de la Monnaie, Brussels, Belgium

Milan
Sunday, 17 April
Concert: Militant Rap for Palestinian Political Prisoners
7:00 pm
Cox18, Via Conchetta 18, Milan, Italy

Toulouse
Sunday, 17 April
Gathering: Palestine Afternoon
1:00 pm
La Chapelle, 36 rue Danielle Casanova, Toulouse, France

New York

Sunday, 17 April
Speakout: Speak Out for Prson Divestment on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day
1:30 PM
Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, New York 11201

Paris
Sunday, 17 April
Forum: Freedom for All Palestinian Prisoners
4:00 pm
Academy of Arts and Culture of Kurdistan, 16 rue d’Enghien, Paris

Vienna
Sunday, 17 April
Protest: Palestinian Prisoners Day
3:00 PM
Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria

Limerick
Monday, 18 April
Forum: Palestinian Lawyer Aouda Zbidat on Palestinian Political Prisoners
7:30 pm
Pery’s Hotel, Glentworth St, Limerick

Cork
Tuesday, 19 April
Forum: Palestinian Lawyer Aouda Zbidat on Palestinian Political Prisoners
Time/Venue TBA

Lille
Wednesday, 20 April
Forum: International Day to Free Political Prisoners
6:00 pm
Grand Place de Lille, 10 rue Royale, Lille, France

Dublin
Wednesday, 19 April
Forum: Palestinian Lawyer Aouda Zbidat on Palestinian Political Prisoners
7:00 pm
The Academy Plaza Hotel, 10-14 Findlater Place, Dublin, Ireland

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Leave a comment

A Few Black Caucus Members Have Some Questions About Israel

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | April 6, 2016

Black Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson has written a letter that puts him in the cross-hairs of the Israel lobby – and he’s managed to bring eight other members of the House with him, including three colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus. Johnson teamed up with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, a longtime – and usually very lonely – critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The senator is the author of the Leahy Law, which requires the United States to cut off military aid “to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information” that the unit has “committed a gross violation of human rights.” Congressman Johnson believes this language applies to Israel and to military and police units in Egypt. Together, the two countries account for more than 75 percent of total U.S. military assistance to foreign states: $3.1 billion a year to Israel, and $1.5 billion to Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding that the U.S. increase its annual gift to the Zionist State’s military to $4.5 billion.

Congressman Johnson’s letter urges Secretary of State John Kerry to do as the Leahy Law requires, and make a determination if Israel and Egypt have engaged in gross violations of human rights. The letter calls Kerry’s attention to specific cases of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians and the use of torture by Israeli security forces, and it cites the Egyptian military regime’s 2013 massacre of as many as a thousand unarmed civilians at Rab’aa Square, which Human Rights Watch describes as “the world’s largest killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.”

In addition to Senator Leahy, Hank Johnson convinced eight other House Democrats to sign his letter, including Black Caucus members Andrè Carson, of Indiana, Eddie Bernice Johnson, of Texas, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional Delegate from Washington, DC.

The crimes of Egypt’s military regime have shocked the world, but Washington has no problem with mass murder, which is why the Egyptian military has been a U.S. client for the past 40 years.

And, there is, of course, not a chance in hell that Secretary of State Kerry will certify that Israel is a gross human rights violator – despite the fact that the entire history of the apartheid Zionist state is an affront to the very notion of civilization. Just two weeks ago, an Israeli soldier was caught on video cold-bloodedly shooting a wounded and helpless Palestinian in the head. A poll showed 66 percent of Israeli Jews have good feelings about the soldier’s behavior, and 57 percent don’t even want the government to investigate the murder. This is the kind of barbaric society that is bred by apartheid – a society that should be recognized as inherently evil by every member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But, only three Black congresspersons joined Hank Johnson in questioning why the U.S. spends billions to arm the last apartheid state on Earth. In 2014, every single Black congressperson, including Hank Johnson, voted in support of Israel even as it was slaughtering more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Four signatures on a letter will never erase the shame they have brought upon Black America through their support for the most racist regime in the world.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment