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Dr Swee Ang describes hateful act of piracy by Israel against Norwegian boat on medical mercy mission

Dr Swee Ang (Picture courtesy if Islamic Human Rights Commission)
By Stuart Littlewood | Veterans Today | August 4, 2018

Malaysian-born Swee Ang is the first female Orthopaedic Consultant appointed to St Bartholomew (‘Barts’) and the Royal London Hospitals.

In the 1980s and 1990s she worked as trauma and orthopaedics consultant in the refugee camps of Lebanon and later for the United Nations in Gaza, and the World Health Organisation in the West Bank and Gaza. She is Founder and Patron of the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

She also treated the victims of the Pakistan (Kashmir) earthquake, and as consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon operated on and looked after the victims of the 7 July 2005 suicide bombs in the Royal London Hospital.

Dr Swee is the co-author of War Surgery and Acute Care of the War Wounded, and also wrote From Beirut to Jerusalem documenting her experience in the Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon and Gaza.

She was aboard the Al-Awda sailing for Gaza with urgently needed medical supplies when the vessel was violently assaulted and hijacked in international waters a week ago and taken to an Israeli port. Passengers and crew were roughed up (some seriously injured) and abused, thrown in an Israeli jail and had their possessions and money stolen.

This is Dr Swee’s account, word for word.

Events from 29 July when the Israeli Navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla al-Awda hijacked and diverted it from its intended course to Gaza to Israel.

By Dr Swee Ang, medical doctor on board the al-Awda, 4 August 2018

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with US$ 15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide a non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away. Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line. They then approach the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face. Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.

They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.

They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck. All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.

As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones – medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.
I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell. At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.

Around this time Charlie the first mate received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his own being beaten and tasered.

The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain. Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house. Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own. Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop –stop they are beating Herman, they are hurting him”. We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.

I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash colour, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of oromorph or fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.

With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises. However Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.

I asked for the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro….. Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan. As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge.

The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time. A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity. Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownie with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consume when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey. Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.

As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were 3 oil /gas rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in. Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.

As we approached Israel, Zohar our boat leader suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably 2-3 hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our Captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.

We knew that in Ashdod there will be the Israeli media and film crews. We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen the union man had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.

We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realise they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station. The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped when I realised my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera Abdul had all his credit cards and US$ 1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID. He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.

We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it. All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors. At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.

I was cold and hungry, wearing only one teeshirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away. My bladder was about to explode but I am not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of ruqsacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries. The suitcase was partially broken. My ruqsack was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size teeshirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla teeshirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla teeshirt as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that teeshirt in Israel. They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well. So what had become the glorious Israeli Army of the Six Day War which the world so admired?

I was still not allowed to go to the toilet, but was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.

The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to! By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 – 6 am. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.

Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike. The jailors were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.

The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt. On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated. It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.

At 6.30am 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help. We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate get their attention. They lied and said their doctor will be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 pm, about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital.

Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest. We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”

Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given 4 cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried. Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other. She was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault. But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally. His job was to tell us that a Tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear.

Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order. Shortly after that possibly at 6 pm since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben Gurion airport immediately to wait there. It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014. I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.

When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that he his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?

Conclusion

We, the six women on board al-Awda had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanise us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners. Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.

They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage. We know they would have preferred to kill us but of course the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel.

If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.

As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it. They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.

We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality. We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them. We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime. In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead 7 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with live bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years.

The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by machine guns from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 165 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women. The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza. As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.

BUT we will not stop, we must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians. As long as I survive I will exist to resist. To do less will be a crime.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Chomsky on Regime Change in Nicaragua

By Roger Harris | CounterPunch | August 3, 2018

With patented angst, Noam Chomsky opined on President Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua to an agreeing Amy Goodman: “But there’s been a lot of corruption, a lot of repression. It’s autocratic, undoubtedly.”

Earlier in their DemocracyNow! interview, the main talking points were established via a video clip of a dissident former official from Ortega’s Sandinista Party: Ortega’s “entire government has been, in essence, neoliberal. Then it becomes authoritarian, repressive.”

Left out of this view is why the US has targeted Nicaragua for regime change. One would think that a neoliberal regime, especially if it were authoritarian and repressive, would be just the ticket to curry favor with Washington.

In Chomsky’s own words, Nicaragua poses a threat of a good example to the US empire:

Since Ortega’s return election victory in 2006, Nicaragua had achieved the following, according to NSCAG, despite being the second poorest country in the hemisphere:

+ Second highest economic growth rates and most stable economy in Central America.

+ Only country in the region producing 90% of the food it consumes.

+ Poverty and extreme poverty halved; country with the greatest reduction of extreme poverty.

+ Reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition by half.

+ Free basic healthcare and education.

+ Illiteracy virtually eliminated, down from 36% in 2006.

+ Average economic growth of 5.2% for the past 5 years (IMF and the World Bank).

+ Safest country in Central America (UN Development Program) with one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.

+ Highest level of gender equality in the Americas (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017).

+ Did not contribute to the migrant exodus to the US, unlike neighboring Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

+ Unlike its neighbors, kept out the drug cartels and pioneered community policing.

Nicaragua targeted by the US for regime change

Before April 18, Nicaragua was among the most peaceful and stable countries in the region. The otherwise inexplicable violence that has suddenly engulfed Nicaragua should be understood in the context of it being targeted by the US for regime change.

Nicaragua has provoked the ire of the US for the good things its done, not the bad.

Besides being a “threat” of a good example, Nicaragua is in the anti-imperialist ALBA alliance with Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and others. The attack on Nicaragua is part of a larger strategy by the US to tear apart regional alliances of resistance to the Empire, though that is not the whole story.

Nicaragua regularly votes against the US in international forums such as challenging retrograde US policies on climate change. An inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua is being considered, which would contend with the Panama Canal. Russia and China invest in Nicaragua, competing with US capital.

The NICA Act, passed by the US House of Representatives and now before the Senate, would initiate economic warfare designed to attack living conditions in Nicaragua through economic sanctions, as well as intensify US intelligence intervention. The ultimate purpose is to depose the democratically-elected Ortega government.

Meanwhile, USAID announced an additional $1.5 million “to support freedom and democracy in Nicaragua” through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to overthrow the democratically elected government and “make this truly a hemisphere of freedom.” That is, freedom for the US empire.

Holding Nicaragua to a higher standard than our own government

Although Chomsky echoes the talking points of the USAID administrator Mark Green about “Ortega’s brutal regime,” he can’t quite bring himself to accept responsibility for regime change. Chomsky despairs, “it’s hard to see a simple way out at this point. It’s a very unfortunate situation.”

Chomsky is concerned about corruption, repression, and autocracy in Nicaragua, urging the democratically elected president to step down and run for re-election. Need it be mentioned that Chomsky chastised leftists who did not “absolutely” support Hillary Clinton? It is from this moral ground that the professor looks down on Nicaragua.

These charges of corruption and such are addressed by long-time solidarity activist Chuck Kaufman:

+ The World Bank, IMF, and EU countries have certified Nicaragua for its effective use of international loans and grants; funds were spent for the purposes they were given, not siphoned off into corruption.

+ Kaufman asks, “why a police force that in 39 years had not repressed the Nicaraguan people would suddenly go berserk,” while videos clearly show the violence of the more militant opposition.

+ Ortega won in 2006 with a 38% plurality, in 2011 with 63%, and 72.5% in 2016. The Organization of American States officially accompanied and certified the vote. Kaufman notes, “Dictators don’t win fair elections by growing margins.”

Alternatives to Ortega would be worse

Those who call for Ortega’s removal need to accept responsibility for what comes after. Here the lesson of Libya is instructive, where the replacement of, in Chomsky’s words, the “brutal tyrant” and “cruel dictator” Qaddafi has resulted in a far worse situation for the Libyan people.

Any replacement of Ortega would be more, not less, neoliberal, oppressive, and authoritarian. When the Nicaraguan people, held hostage to the US-backed Contra war, first voted Ortega out of office in 1990, the incoming US-backed Violeta Chamorro government brought neoliberal structural adjustment and a moribund economy.

The dissident Sandinistas who splintered off from the official party after the party’s election defeat and formed the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) are not a progressive alternative. They are now comfortably ensconced in US-funded NGOs, regularly making junkets to Washington to pay homage to the likes of Representative Iliana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Marco Rubio to lobby in favor of the NICA Act. Nor do they represent a popular force, garnering less than 2% in national elections.

When the MRS left the Sandinista party, they took with them almost all those who were better educated, came from more privileged backgrounds, and who spoke English. These formerly left dissidents, now turned to the right in their hatred of Ortega, have many ties with North American activists, which explains some of the confusion today over Nicaragua.

The world, not just Ortega, has changed since the 1980s when the Soviet Union and its allies served as a counter-vailing force to US bullying. What was possible then is not the same in today’s more constrained international arena.

Class war turned upside down

Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance aptly characterized the offensive against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua as “a class war turned upside down.” Nicaragua was the most progressive country in Central America with no close rival. Yet some North American left intellectuals are preoccupied with Nicaragua’s shortcomings while not clearly recognizing that it is being attacked by a domestic rightwing in league with the US government.

Noam Chomsky is a leading world left intellectual and should be acclaimed for his contributions. His incisive warning about the US nuclear policy is just one essential example. Nevertheless, he is also indicative of a tendency in the North American left to accept a bit too readily the talking points of imperialist propaganda, regarding the present-day Sandinistas.

There is a disconnect between Chomsky’s urging Nicaraguans to replace Ortega with new elections and his longtime and forceful advocacy against US imperialist depredations of countries like Nicaragua. Such elections in Nicaragua would not only be unconstitutional but would further destabilize a profoundly destabilized situation. Given the unpopularity and disunity of the opposition and the unity and organizational strength of the Sandinistas, Ortega would likely win.

Most important, the key role of Northern American solidarity activists is to end US interference in Nicaragua so that the Nicaraguans can solve their own problems.

The rightwing violence since April in Nicaragua should be understood as a coup attempt. A significant portion of the Nicaraguan people have rallied around their elected government as seen in the massive demonstrations commemorating the Sandinista revolution on July 19.

For now, the rightwing tranques (blockades) have been dismantled and citizens can again freely circulate without being shaken down and threatened. In the aftermath, though, Nicaragua has suffered unacceptable human deaths, massive public property damage, and a wounded economy with the debilitating NICA Act threatening to pass the US Senate.

Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tehran Reveals Terms of Its Withdrawal From Syria

Sputnik – 04.08.2018

Iran might decrease its military presence in Syria and even leave altogether after the situation in the war-torn country normalizes and the fight against terrorism there brings significant results, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

“As soon as we see that Syria is close to certain stability, and the fight against terrorism is close to its end, and significant results have been reached, of course, we might decrease the presence of our advisors in Syria or even withdraw from the country,” Qassemi said in an interview with the Iranian Pupils Association News Agency (PANA) as quoted by the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website on Saturday.

Tehran would maintain its presence in Syria as long as Damascus wants it to, Qassemi pointed out. The diplomat noted that fighting terrorism was one of the Iranian forces’ tasks in Syria, apart from granting support to the war-torn country’s government.

In July, Iranian Supreme Leader’s Top Adviser for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati said Tehran would be present in Syria and Iraq at the request of these countries’ legitimate governments and would not leave despite the threats voiced by the United States.

Israel has also repeatedly expressed security concerns over the Iranian presence next to its borders in Syria. Velayati has noted that the Iranian presence in Syria was coordinated with Moscow and Damascus and did not have to be agreed upon with Israel.

Iran, alongside Russia and Turkey, is a guarantor state of the Syrian truce. Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that only Iranian officers, not troops, were operating in his country.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bizarro Zionism: Zionists Call Human Rights Supporters Racist

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | August 3, 2018

What to call someone who claims to oppose racism, except for that directed against Palestinians?

Judge someone by what they have done and continue to do. Consider the source. These thoughts ran through my mind as I struggled to write about Bernie Farber’s standing among some Left/liberals.

After Israel recently solidified its apartheid regime, a Facebook friend posted an opinion by illustrious pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim titled “Today, I Am Ashamed to Be an Israeli.” While expressing opposition to its recent entrenchment of Jewish supremacism, the story effectively denied the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by claiming, “the founding fathers of the State of Israel who signed the Declaration [of independence] considered the principle of equality as the bedrock of the society they were building.”

More than this sop to colonial history, my leftist Facebook friend’s post piqued my ire because it highlighted that the article came from Farber, who worked at the now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) between 1984 and 2011. In response to my complaint about citing the former CJC CEO approvingly, Farber wrote, “I will continue to work for mutual understanding and do my best to see all sides. You will of course see what you wish from your one-sided pedestal and be critical of anyone who remains a progressive Zionist which I am.”

From the “pedestal” on which I observe Farber, I see an individual who has repeatedly labelled supporters of Palestinian rights as racist. After the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) passed a 2009 motion in support of the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement Farber claimed, “anti-semitism is once again amongst us.” For Farber the resolution was “bigoted and discriminatory and anti-Jewish” because only one country was targeted. “The sole target is Jews, is Israel,” he said.

In a 2010 letter to the Toronto Star denouncing Israeli Apartheid Week CJC’s CEO wrote, “Anything that promotes the destruction, demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is inherently anti-Semitic. To falsely accuse Israel, and by extension the vast majority of the world’s Jews who support the Jewish state, of ‘apartheid,’ is a form of anti-Semitic bullying.”

When the Israeli military killed 1,400 Palestinians (including 345 children) over 22 days in 2008-09 Farber denounced those protesting the slaughter across the country for their purported “vile, disgusting, hateful rhetoric of the kind that should be absolutely frightening to Canadians.” Further stoking anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment, he labeled the protests “uncivil, un-Canadian, that demonize Jews and Israelis.” Farber called on the police to investigate the burning of an Israeli flag and a small number of individuals with signs deemed “pro-Hamas” or comparing Israel’s actions to the Nazis.

In 2003 Farber lobbied for noted Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian activist Daniel Pipes to speak at York University. “It would have set a very, very unacceptable precedent to cancel it because of students who didn’t like or what he had to say,” said the then executive director of CJC Ontario. In 1996 Pipes asserted that Islam “would seem to have nothing functional to offer” and six years earlier said: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene … All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” The year before speaking at York University Pipes launched Campus Watch, which created “dossiers” on professors and academic institutions viewed as critical of Israel and more recently, wrote a piece titled “How 99 Percent of ‘Palestine Refugees’ Are Fake.”

Farber certainly didn’t support Pipes as a principled defender of free speech. In fact, Farber repeatedly promoted hate speech restrictions and a few years later the CJC pressured the York administration against holding an academic conference entitled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace. Farber also applauded the Stephen Harper government’s 2009 move to block former British MP George Galloway from speaking in Canada, writing: “George Galloway enables terrorism.”

After Adbusters juxtaposed photos of the World War II Warsaw Ghetto with images of Gaza, Farber penned a National Post op-ed titled “Selling anti-Semitism in the book stores”. It urged people to complain to stores selling the Vancouver-based magazine and a week later Shoppers Drug Mart told Adbusters it would no longer sell its magazine.

Aligning himself with Doug and Rob Ford, in 2010 Farber called on Toronto Pride to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from its parade. In an over-the-top Toronto Star opinion piece he (co)wrote, “you’ve got to hand it to the organizers of Toronto’s annual gay pride parade. With their cowardly volte face in allowing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) to march, organizers have pulled off the PR nightmare hat-trick: bowing to the bullying of political correctness; violating their own core philosophy by readmitting a group rooted in hate and demonization; and shifting media focus off their main objective.”

As executive director of CJC Ontario Farber joined US Jewish groups’ campaign to suppress the 1998 publication of A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth, which was a rebuttal of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s widely distributed Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. The Norman Finkelstein-led project included an expanded version of an article by Ruth Bettina Birn, chief historian for Canada’s Nazi war crimes unit. Farber claimed that Birn was lending her name to Finkelstein’s “anti-Israel outbursts“, which were “an insult” to Jews. The CJC tried to intimidate the longstanding Nazi hunter through her government employer.

In another attempt to punish those in any way associated with Finkelstein, Farber threatened to take the York Region education board to the human-rights commission if it did not dismiss a Palestinian-Canadian from its race relations committee. Farber was angry that Bader Abu Zahra distributed a review of Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering at a teachers’ conference to discuss including “Holocaust and Anti-racist education in History, English and Social Science courses.”

When former Assembly of First Nations (AFN) head David Ahenakew made anti-Semitic comments in 2002 Farber (correctly) criticized them. But he also used Ahenakew’s abhorrent comments to smear Palestine solidarity activists. Alluding to the September 2002 protest against Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University and support for the second Palestinian intifada, Farber claimed Ahenakew “felt comfortable at the time to say what he’s been thinking for a long time.” Farber then used Ahenakew’s anti-Semitic comments to push AFN leaders to support a state stealing indigenous Palestinians’ land. As part of AFN/CJC rapprochement Grand Chief Phil Fontaine participated in a CJC organize tour to Israel.

Farber attacked the United Church of Canada for supporting Palestinian rights and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). “It almost sends shivers down our spine that the United Church of Canada won’t speak out against documents which on their face are anti-Semitic,” said Farber, regarding a number of Palestine solidarity resolutions submitted to its 2009 national meeting. Amidst an aggressive campaign targeting the United Church, the CJC head opined, “that a mainstream Christian faith group would provide funding to create an anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish group is absolutely astounding.”

Farber has repeatedly denigrated IJV, which supports the Palestinian civil society’s call to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel. He called IJV a “small, radical rump group”, “a rump on the edge of Jewish society”, a “fringe group” that spews “vile, anti-Zionist” rhetoric, “a minuscule, fringe group” that backs the “anti-Semitic” claim that Israel practices apartheid, etc.

At the same time that he disparaged IJV, Farber gave political cover to the Jewish Defence League (JDL), which recruited in Jewish high schools and participated in Toronto’s Annual Israel Walk. According to Andy Lehrer, JDL head Meir Weinstein spoke glowingly of Farber. After being asked to do so for years, Farber finally distanced himself and the CJC from the JDL in 2011. Highlighting the tension between those who back its anti-Palestinian posture, but oppose the JDL’s alliances with fascist/white supremacist organizations, Farber denounced the group after it rallied in support of Britain’s extremist English Defence League.

In response to my posting some of the above information on Facebook Farber complained that, “I haven’t worked at the CJC for over 7 years. And you have no idea of my work since then.” While Farber is no longer a leading proponent of the idea that expressing support for Palestinians is “anti-Semitism”, now challenges some of the Islamophobia he previously stoked and is offside with the JDL, it would be a stretch to say he’s broken from his CJC past. In 2015 Farber’s Mosaic Institute co-hosted an event with the Consulate of Israel in Toronto and last year he supported the exclusion of IJV and the United Jewish People’s Order from an Ontario anti-Semitism committee he co-led. In February Farber was a spokesperson for a JSpace Canada press release calling on the NDP convention to oppose a resolution that called for boycotting products from illegal Israeli settlements.

Despite this anti-Palestinian activity, many left/liberals partner with him. Alt weekly Toronto Now regularly publishes Farber’s articles; anti-racist journalist/activist Desmond Cole spoke with him at a recent forum put on by Farber’s Mosaic Institute; Judy Rebick, Sandy Hudson, Jerry Dias and others co-authored an op-ed with Farber calling on “Progressive Voters To Rally Around Andrea Horwath”; A slew of individuals have supported the new Farber-chaired Canadian Anti-Hate Network; the Treyf podcast interviewed him twice last year; the Torontoist quoted him in an article titled “Toronto’s Jewish Left is Alive and Well and Resisting Extremism.”

Of course, one could argue there is nothing wrong with interviewing someone you disagree with, partnering on an issue even if you differ on other subjects or citing a former pro-Israel activist to highlight that country’s eroding support.

But, ask yourself this: Would a pro-union publication give voice to a prominent union-basher? And if that union-basher claimed to have changed, wouldn’t the pro-union publication question him/her about the reasons for the change and their current opinion regarding unions?

It seems to me that supporters of Palestinian rights must, at a minimum, ask Farber similar questions before giving him voice as a “progressive” and “anti-racist”.


Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation . To help organize an event as part of the fall tour for my forthcoming book Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada please get in touch at yvesengler [at] hotmail.com

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Art of the Deal and Iran sanctions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 4, 2018

An amicable formula seems to be emerging between the Trump administration on the one hand and China and India on the other hand as regards the impending US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. Below-the-radar consultations are going on between Washington and Beijing and New Delhi.

The Trump administration initially threatened collateral damage to countries such as China and India unless they fell in line with the US diktat to stop all oil imports from Iran to zero by November 4. Oil is at the core of Trump’s containment strategy against Iran, since oil exports are a major source for income for Tehran and the American game plan is all about hurting the Iranian economy until its leadership capitulates and begs him for a meeting.

It’s a hackneyed notion to bully Tehran to make it bend. It never worked in these 40 years – not even under Barack Obama who enjoyed vast political capital in the international community. But the good thing about Trump is that behind the fire and fury, he’s a realist. (By the way, Iranians know it, too, as this utterly fascinating tongue-in-cheek commentary yesterday implies.)

So, after some rounds of diplomacy in world capitals (to test the waters, basically) – Beijing, New Delhi, Ankara, in particular, which are big-time buyers of Iranian oil – Washington began signaling that sanctions can also provide for ‘waivers’ – that is, Trump administration will selectively exercise the great privilege of deciding not to punish countries that may still want to buy Iranian oil after the November 4 cutoff date.

Quite obviously, from the feedback received from American diplomats, Washington senses great reluctance to pay heed to the US demarche. In particular, China and India (which account for over half of Iranian oil exports) are heavily dependent on Iranian oil – and, for good reason too. At least in the case of India, Iran offers oil at a discounted price on deferred payment basis with substantial reduction in freight and insurance costs.

Now, the US cannot possibly sanction the oil industry in China or India because Big Oil is also hoping to do business with them. (For shale oil, Asian market is the preferred destination.) Some analysts predict that Russia, which like America is also an energy superpower, will be a net gainer. Russia can cash in on the needs of China and India for oil; Russia can buy Iranian oil and sell it through swap deals and so on (and make some money in the bargain); or, Russia may even move into the Iranian oil industry in a big way and make investments there. At any rate, it is foolhardy for the US to imagine that it can control the world energy market in terms of price elasticity of supply.

In view of the above factors, the Trump administration is finessing an understanding with China and India whereby the US sanctions policy against Iran does not become an acrimonious issue. The interests to be reconciled are: a) China and India have legitimate interests in sourcing Iranian oil and it is unrealistic and counterproductive to coerce them; and, b) the US too has an abiding interest not to sanction the oil companies of China and India, which are prospective buyers of US oil.

The Bloomberg report, here, says that China has point blank refused to cut Iranian oil imports but may agree to keep imports at the existing level as of November 4. Interestingly, the report cites US officials heaving a sigh of relief: “That would ease concerns that China would work to undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic by purchasing excess oil.” Plainly put, Washington is relieved that Beijing will not take advantage of the US sanctions against Iran.

On the other hand, the Reuters report on India, here, assesses that Indian imports of Iranian crude oil are dramatically increasing in recent months. A 30% increase is reported in July with crude imports from Iran touching record level of 768,000 barrels per day. (This is a whopping 85% jump over the corresponding  period in July 2017, which was 415,000 bpd)!

Of course, if the US can allow China to keep its import of Iranian oil at the existing level as of November 4, it cannot deny a similar formula to India. And, therefore, doesn’t it make eminent sense that India keeps ramping up its oil imports from Iran to the maximum level possible by November 4?

Evidently, this is Trump’s Art of the Deal at work. By the way, for Iran too, this would provide some ‘sanctions relief’. Which in turn may even ‘incentivize’ Tehran to talk to Trump. If there is anything like a workable “win-win” in politics, this is it, this is it.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment