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Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

By Maya Evans | Dissident Voice | August 5, 2018

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism. While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe. The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul. This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.” There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK and has visited Afghanistan 9 times since 2011. She is a writer and a Councillor for her town in Hastings, England.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

DPRK Slams Extension of US-Japan Nuclear Pact as US Double Standard – Report

Sputnik – 05.08.2018

North Korea denounced the extension of the US-Japanese atomic energy agreement, accusing Tokyo of undertaking activities allegedly aimed at nuclear weaponization and blaming the United States of double standards, local media reported on Sunday.

The Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) released a white paper on Saturday criticizing the 1988 US-Japanese nuclear pact, which was extended last month, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

According to the white paper, Japan has been conducting nuclear research since long ago, allegedly starting to push forward the A-bomb development in 1930s.

The paper also suggested that out of 518 tonnes of plutonium stockpiled around the world so far, 47 tonnes are stored by Japan.

The document accused the United States of a double-standard approach to treat North Korea and Japan differently on nuclear issues, calling on Washington to “judge the situation from a fair stand” if it wanted denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In July, the United States and Japan extended a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, which granted Japan the right to extract plutonium, reprocess spent fuel and enrich uranium on the condition that it was not used to build nuclear weapons.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Semitism and the suppression of truth

By Gilad Atzmon | August 5, 2018

Jewish power, as I define it, is the power to silence opposition to Jewish power. The scandal over the alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour party provides a perfect example. The Labour Party is accused of being “an existential threat to British Jews” (no more no less) because the NEC, its ruling body, defined antisemitism for the Labour party, without clearly including in its definition criticism of Israel.

In its definition for its own code, the Labour party adopted the problematic IHRA working definition of antisemitism but omitted the following ‘examples of anti-Semitism’ included with the IHRA:

§  Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country,

§  Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavor,

§  Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations, and

§  Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

According to Labour’s ruling body, these examples may not be treated as anti -Jewish bigotry without clear evidence of anti-Semitic intent. This treatment is the proper one according to most reasonable minds.

Since some Diaspora Jews admit to being more loyal to Israel than to their home country, it would be a bit problematic to accuse a goy of hatefulness for repeating what many Jews openly declare. Since the new racist Israeli National Bill has been duly approved by the Knesset, it would be bizarre to accuse a Labour Party member of anti-Jewish bigotry for saying that Israel is a racist endeavour.

Although such an accusation may well be accurate, it runs afoul of the omitted examples in the IHRA definition exactly because the definition is designed to suppress criticism of Israel and its politics. Last week, the Guardian published a wide range  of Jewish writers and their views of the IHRA definition in the context of the current Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis. Some of the views expressed are insightful and deserve close attention.

Antisemitism, according to Stephen Sedley, a law scholar and a former judge, is “hostility towards Jews as Jews. This straightforward definition is at the disposal of any institution or organisation that needs it. It places no prior restrictions on the form antisemitism may take.”

Sedley comes to a conclusion that the IHRA definition with examples exists “to neutralise serious criticism of Israel by stigmatising it as a form of antisemitism.” Sedley’s view in this context fits nicely with the definition of Jewish power above.

Sedley points out that The UK government, which has adopted the “working definition” including the examples, was warned by the Commons home affairs select committee in October 2016 that in the interests of free speech it ought to adopt an explicit rider that it is not antisemitic to criticise the government of Israel … without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.” Sedley emphasises that this recommendation “was ignored.”

Geoffrey Bindman, a QC, solicitor and a legal scholar agrees with Sedley’s criticism. Bindman also refers to the recommendations of the all-party Commons home affairs select committee that the IHRA definition should only be adopted if qualified by caveats making clear that it is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Israeli government without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent. “Unfortunately the caveats were omitted when the definition was approved by the UK government.”

These men make clear that the IHRA definition is a faulty definition. The British government should reconsider its use of this definition. The other bodies and institutions that were pushed to adopt this non-universalist text would do well to drop it.

Sedley’s opinion is that even though the UK has adopted the IHRA definition, Brits are not forbidden by law from telling the truth about Israel’s being a racist state. This is because Britain also has the “Human Rights Act [that] enacts article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing the right of free expression.” According to Sedley “whatever criticism the IHRA’s ‘examples’ may seek to suppress, both Jews and non-Jews in the UK are entitled, without being stigmatised as antisemites, to contend that a state that by law denies Palestinians any right of self-determination is a racist state, or to ask whether there is some moral equivalence between shooting down defenceless Jews in eastern Europe and unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza.”

Geoffrey Bindman argues that the IHRA definition and examples are “poorly drafted, misleading, and in practice have led to the suppression of legitimate debate and freedom of expression. Nevertheless, clumsily worded as it is, the definition does describe the essence of anti-Semitism: irrational hostility towards Jews.”

Here Bindman opens Pandora’s box. If anti-Semitism is irrational hostility toward Jews simply for being Jews, then the IHRA definition together with its clauses treats even rational and reasonable opposition to Israeli politics as ‘irrational hatred.’ This presents a dangerous precedent and an Orwellian turn for British society. It suggests that Britain is a free country no more. In Britain in 2018, those who oppose a certain type of evil, racist politics are labelled ‘irrational haters’ (anti-Semites). Clearly Labour’s NEC attempted to fix this problem by requiring a finding of hateful intent at the core of certain so-called anti-Semitic behaviour. This reasonable requirement led to an irrational reaction by Jewish institutions and an aggressive response.

It is difficult to judge whether the Guardian’s choices to defend the IHRA were made as a genuine attempt to represent the Zionist side. Perhaps the Guardian was making a desperate attempt to provide its readers with some comic relief: like the British Chief Rabbi and 68 additional British rabbis who were upset by Labour‘s slight deviation from the IHRA definition, Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner also expressed her dissatisfaction with the party of the workers.

“If the Labour party wanted to prioritise anti-Semitism by choosing a bespoke definition then it could have listened to the full diversity of the Jewish community,” Janner-Klausner wrote. But why does anyone need to follow the Rabbis or self-appointed Jewish ‘representative bodies’ for that matter? If anti-Semitism is racism, then we all ought to oppose anti-Semitism as we do any form of racism: universally. And if anti-Semitism is a piece of our universal concern with racism, then we all should be equally involved in opposing it. This is similar to the line of thought that was, I believe, at the core of the American Civil Rights Movement. It was a universal call that had a universal appeal. It aimed to protect the many not just the few. This is pretty much the opposite of the IHRA definition that is concerned with one people only.

In that regard, it is of note that Labour’s NEC was not attempting to define what anti-Semitsm means to Jews. NEC defined what anti-Semitsm means for the Labour party and in accordance with Labour values.

Keith Kahn-Harris, a London sociologist not known for his sophistication also contributed to the Guardian’s panel. He reiterated my definition of Jewish power, probably without realising it. “It’s certainly true that the IHRA definition does tightly constrain anti-Israel and anti-Zionist speech, but it doesn’t make it impossible.” I guess that Kahn-Harris is saying that IHRA definition allows support of Palestine as long as the speaker can successfully zigzag around Jewish sensitivities. Maybe you can talk about Palestinian suffering as long as you avoid mentioning Israel. “It might have been possible to see the IHRA definition as a challenge to pro-Palestinian activists to be more creative in their language: after all, whether or not you think Israel is acting just like the Nazis, saying so is predictable, lazy and cliched.” I would advise Khan Harris that living for 70 years as a stateless refugee in Lebanon or being imprisoned in Gaza by an Israeli siege is more than enough. Palestinians and their supporters do not need this ‘extra challenge.’ What they want is to make their plight known and to be able to talk truth to power. Even to describe, for instance, an equivalence between two nationalist, racist and expansionist political ideologies that were fermented around the same time and even collaborated for a while. And this is exactly what the IHRA is there to prevent.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Reports Reveal Kushner Plan to Dismantle UNRWA

Palestine Chronicle | August 5, 2018

The Palestinian leadership have slammed a reported plan by the US President’s special adviser Jared Kushner to dismantle the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, saying it’s a plot to take a key issue off any future negotiations.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has described the newly-surfaced plan, allegedly outlined by Kushner in internal correspondence in January, as a “continuation of the subversive plots to eliminate the Palestinian problem.”

By insisting on unraveling the decades-old United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Washington seeks to strike the issue of the Palestinians displaced during the Arab-Israeli war off the agenda of any future negotiations, which is unacceptable, Abbas said on Saturday.

On Friday, Foreign Policy magazine revealed that Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law in charge of mediating a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, has been spearheading an effort to get rid of UNRWA.

In an email to the US President’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and several other officials, dated January 11, Kushner reportedly wrote that “it is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA.”

Advocating for the dissolution of the organization that helps provide healthcare and education to tens of thousands of Palestinians, Kushner wrote that the US cannot let the situation remain stable and has to “strategically risk breaking things” to achieve its wide-reaching goals.

In line with his goal to render UNRWA obsolete, Kushner allegedly sought to put pressure on Jordan so it will no longer recognize some 2 million Palestinian refugees as such during a leg of his Middle Eastern tour in June.

Kushner reportedly tried to persuade the Jordanian government to resettle the Palestinians within its borders without UNRWA being involved, according to a Palestinian official cited by FP.

Head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Saeb Erekat reported on Kushner’s attempt to buy the Arab countries’ support in his quest to eliminate the UN agency back in June.

“They (the Trump administration) approached the host countries of the Palestinian refugees to ask how much UNRWA used to spend there and offered to give it directly to them,” Erekat said, claiming that Jordan said “no” to the generous offer.

UNRWA, which was founded in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, defines refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period June 1, 1946 to May 15 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” In addition to those originally displaced from their homes, it also views their descendants as applicable for refugee status.

The latter principle, which has seen the number of registered Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza exceed five million, has long been a bone of contention between the agency and the Israeli authorities, who regard their return as a threat to the Jewish character of the nation-state.

UNRWA has had to scale back its assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza after the US, which was the agency’s biggest donor, slashed its contribution by $250 million.

The move left the agency cash-strapped and sparked an urgent call for donors, backed by the UN officials including Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “We must do everything possible to ensure that food continues to arrive, that schools remain open and that people do not lose hope,” he told a fundraising conference in New York in June.

Trump has put Kushner in charge of devising a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, that has been in the works for 18 months and which is rumored to include points that are unacceptable to Ramallah.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian scientist assassinated in car bombing: Report

Syrian scientist Aziz Azbar
Press TV – August 5, 2018

A Syrian scientist has reportedly been assassinated in a car bomb attack after he survived Israeli attacks on his research center.

Aziz Azbar, the head of the Syrian Scientific Research and Studies Center in the city of Masyaf, was killed along with his driver in a bombing Saturday night, Syrian and Lebanese news outlets reported.

The scientific center, run by Azbar, had been the target of at least two Israeli aerial assaults over the past months.

Israel frequently attacks military targets inside Syria in an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats against Syrian government forces.

Israel has also been providing weapons to anti-Damascus militants as well as medical treatment to Takfiri elements wounded in Syria.

Western countries accuse the Syria government of possessing chemical weapons, an allegation rejected by Damascus.

Syria surrendered its chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Damascus has repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of providing militants with banned weapons.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment