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The Saker Interviews Professor Marandi

The Saker • Unz Review • August 22, 2019

Introduction: first, several friends recently suggested that that I should interview Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi; then I read this most interesting text on Moon of Alabama and I decided to ask Professor Marandi to share his views of the current situation in Iran, the Persian Gulf and the rest of the Middle-East who very kindly agreed to reply to my question in spite of his most hectic and busy schedule. I am most grateful to Prof. Marandi for his time and replies. Crucially, Prof. Marandi debunks the silly notion that Russia and Israel are allies or working together. He also debunks that other canard about Russia and Iran having some major differences over Syria. Prof. Marandi, who is currently in Iran, is superbly connected and informed, and I hope that with this interview some of the more outlandish rumors which were recently circulated will finally be seen for what they are: utter, total, nonsense. Enjoy the interview!

The Saker: It is often said that there is an “axis of resistance” which comprises Syrian, Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and China. Sometimes, Venezuela, Cuba or the DPRK are added to this list. Do you believe that there is such an “axis of resistance” and, if yes, how would you characterize the nature of this informal alliance? Do you think that this informal alliance can ever grow into a formal political or military alliance or a collective security treaty?

Professor Marandi: I definitely believe there is an Axis of Resistance that currently includes Iran, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, parts of Afghanistan, and Yemen. I do not think that we can include the DPRK in any way or form. I believe that Russia could be considered to a certain degree as aligned or affiliated to this resistance, but that this is not something many would feel the need to acknowledge. At certain levels, there is a lot of overlap between Russian and Chinese policy and the policies of the countries and movements in this region that are affiliated to this Axis of Resistance. The same is true with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba, which I do not consider to be similar to North Korea at all. Just as almost everywhere else, American policy in the Korean Peninsula is ugly, hegemonic and malevolence, but the nature of the DPRK government is fundamentally different from that of Venezuela or Cuba, whether the Americans or Europeans like to acknowledge that or not. Others can interpret the Axis of Resistance to include or exclude certain countries, but it is pretty clear that Iran and Russia have similar policy objectives when it comes to certain key issues. Nevertheless, Russia has a close relationship with the Israeli regime whereas Iran considers it to be an apartheid state, almost identical to that of apartheid South Africa. Or for example the Syrian government position regarding Israel is different from that of Iran’s. The official Syrian position is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be returned to the Palestinians, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, and that the occupied Golan Heights have to be handed back to the Syrian people, which are legitimate demands. But the Iranian position is different, Iran firmly believes that Israel is a colonial and apartheid regime and that it is morally unacceptable for it to exist in its present form. Therefore, at least officially, there are substantial differences. So people can interpret the Axis of Resistance in different ways. It is important to keep in mind that despite Syria, Iran, Turkey and Qatar are also moving closer together partially thanks to US, Saudi, and UAE hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood. What is important is that there is a growing consensus about key issues in this region and what the major problems are, and I think that as time goes on this loose alliance of countries and movements is growing more influential and more powerful. I cannot say whether there will be a formal or open collective security treaty or military alliance created by any of these countries in the near or foreseeable future and I do not see such a necessity. However, I think this convergence of ideas is very important and I think that the formal and informal links that exist between these countries is in many ways more important and more significant than formal political or military alliances or security treaties.

The Saker: In recent months a number of observers have stated that Russia and Israel are working hand in hand and some have gone as far as to say that Putin is basically a pawn of Netanyahu and that Russia is loyal to Israel and Zionists interests. Do you agree with this point of view? How do Iranian officials view the Russian contacts with the Israelis, does that worry them or do they believe that these contacts can be beneficial for the future of the region?

Professor Marandi: That is nonsense. The US and Israeli regimes are culturally and ideologically bound to one another, whereas the Americans have a deep antipathy towards Russia. That is why the Russians have a very different position on Syria than do the Americans and Israelis. The Israelis alongside the US, the EU, the Saudis, and some of Syria’s neighboring countries, supported ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other extremist entities and attempted to tear Syria apart. As explained earlier, the Russian view of Israel is different from Iran. There are many Russian Jewish immigrants in Israel and they constitute a large segment of the colonists in Palestine and they are largely utilized for the further subjugation of the Palestinian people and ethnic cleansing. Generally speaking, Russian interests are in sharp conflict with those of the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. In addition, Russia’s close relationship with Syria dates back to the cold war and the relentless US pressure on China and Russia has also acted as a strong catalyst to quicken their convergence with one another as well as with Iran on key issues. The Chinese and Russians know quite well that the United States, the Europeans, and regional countries have extensively used extremists in Syria to undermine the state and that those forces could later be used to undermine security in Central Asia, Russia, and China. A large number of Russian, Chinese, and Central Asians have been trained to fight in Syria, and this is a major threat to their collective security. The United States could use these and other extremists in an attempt to impede the potential success of the Belt and Road Initiative or other plans for Asian integration. Thus, there is a sharp and growing conflict between the Russians and the Americans.

The Israeli regime constantly tells the Russians and the Chinese that they are the gateway to Washington and that if they maintain strong ties with Israel, the Israelis can help them solve their problems with the United States. I do not think there is much truth to that, because this growing conflict is about the fate of US global dominance and there is nothing the Israelis can do to change that. Nevertheless, this has been used as an incentive for the Russians and the Chinese to maintain better relations with the Israeli regime.

In any case, Russia does not have to maintain identical views with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Iraq, or Yemen. Differences exist, but strong relationships exist nevertheless. All of these countries recognize that if the Americans are able to undermine any of them, whether it is Syria, Iran, Russia, or China, then that would only encourage the United States to be more aggressive towards the remaining countries that impede US foreign policy objectives or exist as potential rivals whether regionally or globally. So even though their political structures are different, even though their foreign policies are different, the similarities that exist are quite striking as well as the common threats. Again, to a large degree this coalition is a result of US and Western foreign policy, which has strong undercurrents of Eurocentricism, tribalism, and racism.

Not only has this pressure brought these countries and movements closer to one another, but it has also created a deeper understanding among them. The Russians understand Iran better today than they did 5 years ago, partially as a result of their cooperation in Syria. This greater understanding enhances the relationship, and helps to dispel many of the misunderstandings or myths that may exist about one another due to Eurocentric narratives and orientalism.

Hence, Iran is not concerned about Russian-Israeli relations. Obviously, in an ideal world Iran would like Russia to break relations with the Israeli regime for its apartheid nature. But reality is reality, and Iranian relations with Russia are very good and at times I am sure the Iranians send certain warnings to the Israelis through the Russians.

The Saker: How is Russia viewed in Iran? Are most Iranians still suspicious of Russia or do they believe that they have a viable and honest partner in Russia? What are the main reservations/concerns of patriotic Iranians when they think of Russia?

Professor Marandi: Historically, the Iranians have had serious problems with the Russians. The Russians and the Soviet Union interfered extensively in Iranian internal affairs and they undermined Iran’s sovereignty. But ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union the image of Russia has changed. Especially since Russia began fighting alongside Iran in Syria in 2015, Russia’s image has improved significantly. When we look at polls, Russia’s image is pretty good compared to Western countries.

Western governments own or fund dozens of Persian language media outlets These outlets, such as VOA and BBC Persian among others, are constantly spouting anti-Russian propaganda. Obviously they have an impact and that couples with historical Iranian concerns about Russia, but despite all that, the Russian image is relatively favorable and that says a lot.

The Saker: How about Turkey? Iran and Turkey have had a complex relationship in the past, yet in the case of the AngloZionist war against Syria, the two states have worked together (and with Russia) – does that mean that Turkey is seen as a viable and honest partner in Iran?

Professor Marandi: Iran’s relationship with the Turkish government is complicated, especially, because of the constant policy changes that have occurred IN TURKEY over the past few years. This has made the government seem unreliable in the eyes of many. Having said that, Turkey is very different from Wahhabi influenced regimes in the Arabian Peninsula. Turkish Islamic tradition has striking similarities with Iran’s Islamic culture and because of its strong Sufi tradition, Turkey is much closer to Iran than it is to, for example,Wahhabi Saudi Arabia.

The global Wahhabi menace has grown as a result of Saudi financial support, as well as the support of other countries in the Persian Gulf region. Turkish society has been more resistant, although ever since the military conflict in Syria and due to extensive funding from the Persian Gulf, there has been growing concern about growing sectarianism in Turkey, not unlike what happened in Pakistan in the 1980s.

Ironically, before the conflict in Syria President Erdogan had a closer personal relationship with President Assad than did the Iranians. They and their families would spend vacations together.

In any case, Turkey has a very strong economic, political, and cultural relationship with Iran, and some of the rising anti-Shia and takfiri sentiments that have been on the rise in Turkey were stunted by the Saudi and Emirati support for the attempted coup in Turkey. Subsequently, their open antagonism towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, their support for the coup in Egypt, their policies in Sudan and Libya, and of course the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, have all had a beneficial impact on Iranian-Turkish relations. As a result, Turkey has grown much more distant from Iran’s regional antagonists, while Turkish support for the Palestinian cause is another element that brings Iran and Turkey closer together. American support for PKK terrorists in Syria has also angered the Turks adding push to Turkish-Iranian convergence. Even Turkish policy towards Syria is evolving, although it is impossible for the government to make a radical change, because of years of attempts at regime change.

The Saker: Next, turning to Iraq, how would you characterize the “balance of influence” of Iran and the USA in Iraq? Should we view the Iraqi government as allied to Iran, allied to the USA or independent? If the Empire attacks Iran, what will happen in Iraq?

Professor Marandi: The relationship between Iraq and Iran is significantly more important than the relationship between Iraq and the United States. Iran and Iraq are allies, but this alliance does not contradict the notion of Iraqi independence. Iraq’s regional policy is not identical to Iran’s. But the two countries have very similar interests, a very close relationship, many Iraqi leaders have spent years in Iran, and the bulk of the Iraqi population lives close to the shared border of over 1,200 km between the two countries. So trade, pilgrimage, and tourism are key to both countries. The religious similarities and the holy sites that exist in Iran and Iraq are a huge incentive for interaction between the two countries. There are many Iraqi students studying in Iran and many Iranian’s working in Iraq. The fact that Iranians made many sacrifices when fighting ISIS in Iraq and many Iraqis were martyred in the war against ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria is a strong indication of where things stand despite US pressure.

The Arba’een pilgrimage that takes place every year where millions of Iranians and Iraqis make the walk towards Karbala, side by side, with tens of thousands of Iraqi and Iranian volunteers helping pilgrims along the way is, I think, a further sign of the close relationship.

While the U.S presence in Iraq continues to be hegemonic, Iran has not sought to prevent Iraq from having normal relationships with other countries. However, the U.S continues to seek control over Iraq through the world’s largest embassy, its military presence, and its influence over the bureaucracy. The United States continues to have much say over how the country’s oil wealth is spent.

Still, despite the US colonial behavior, its continued theft of Iraqi oil wealth, and its thuggish behavior, the Iraqis have been able to assert a great deal of independence. In the long run, this continued US behavior is only going to create further resentment among Iraqis. The empire rarely takes these realities into account, they seek to accumulate influence and wealth through brute force, but in the long term it creates deep-rooted anger and hostility which, at some point, will create great problems for the empire, especially as this anger and unrest is growing across the region, if not across the globe.

It is highly unlikely that the regime in Washington will attack Iran, if it does it will bring about a regional war, which will drive the United States out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Syria. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates would, swiftly collapse and the price of oil and natural gas would go through the roof, leading to a global economic meltdown even as millions of people will be streaming towards Europe.

The Saker: It is often said that Russia and Iran have fundamentally different goals in Syria and that the two countries regularly have tensions flaring up between them because of these disagreements. Is that true? In your opinion, how are Russian and Iranian goals in Syria different?

Professor Marandi: The news that we sometimes hear about serious tensions existing between the Iranians and the Russians in Syria is often nonsense. There are clear reasons for people to exaggerate small incidents or to fabricate them altogether, but the relationship is quite good. Iran does not intend to have any military bases in Syria, whereas the Russians do feel the need to preserve their military presence in Syria through long-term agreements.

But ultimately, Iran would like to help enable Syria to acquire the military capability to retake the occupied Golan Heights. Iran does not intend to initiate any conflict with the Israeli regime inside Palestine. That is not an objective in Lebanon and that is not an objective in Syria. As in Lebanon, where the Iranians supported Hezbollah to restore the country’s sovereignty and to drive out the Israeli aggressors and occupiers, the Iranians have the same agenda in Syria. They want to support the Syrians so that they will be able to restore full sovereignty. I don’t believe the Golan Heights is a priority for the Russians.

The Saker: For a while, Iran let the Russian Aerospace Forces use an Iranian military airfield, then when this became public knowledge, the Russians were asked to leave. I have heard rumors that while the IRGC was in favor of allowing Russian Aerospace Forces to use an Iranian military airfield, the regular armed forces were opposed to this. Is it true that there are such differences between the IRGC and the regular armed forces and do you think that Iran will ever allow the Russian military to have a permanent presence in Iran?

Professor Marandi: That is a myth. The Russians were not asked to leave. There were no differences between the IRGC and any other part of the armed forces. This was a decision made by the Supreme National Security Council and the President and all the major commanders in the military were involved in this decision. Actually, the airbase does not belong to the guards it belongs to the air force and a part of the base was used for Russian strategic bombers that were flying to Syria to bomb the extremists. This cooperation ended when the Russians were able to station adequate numbers of aircraft in Syria, because the flights over Iran were long and expensive, whereas the air campaign launched from bases inside Syria was much less expensive and much more effective. Iran was very open about its relationship with the Russians, and openly permitted the Russians to fire missiles over Iranian airspace. There were those who were opposed to the Russian presence in the Iranian airbase. A small segment of Iranian society that is pro-Western and pro-American complained about it in their media outlets, but they had absolutely no impact on the decision-making process. According to polls, an overwhelming majority of Iranians supported Iran’s activities in Syria, and the Supreme National Security Council was under no pressure to its decision. However, Iran does not plan to allow any country to have permanent bases in the country and that is in accordance with the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The revolution in Iran was about independence, dignity, sovereignty and indigenous values, and the removal of American hegemony over Iran was very much a part of that. The Iranians will not give any bases to foreign powers in future, and neither the Russians nor the Chinese have ever made such requests. There are absolutely no differences regarding Iran’s regional policies between the IRGC and the rest of the military, both were a part of the decision-making process when the Russians were allowed to fire missiles over Iranian territory and both were part of the process in allowing Russian aircraft to use Iranian airspace. The Russian bombers were providing air support for Iranian troops and Iranian affiliated troops on the ground.

The Saker: Both Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah have made repeated statements that the days of the racist ZioApartheid regime in occupied are numbered. Do you agree with their point of view and, if yes, how do you see such a regime change actually happening? Which of the One State solution or a Two State solution do you believe to be more realistic?

Professor Marandi: I do not believe the two-state solution is possible because the Israeli regime has colonized too much of the West Bank. Actually, through acts of selfishness and petty short-term gain, the regime has damaged itself enormously. As a result of the colonization of the West Bank, even the European elites and diplomats who would privately admit that the Israeli regime pursues apartheid policies and who would always speak of hope for a two-state solution, admit that the two state solution is dead. All Palestinians are treated as sub humans, whether they reside in the West Bank or not. They are a subjugated nation, whether they are Israeli citizens or not. However, there is no longer any hope that those who live in the occupied West Bank will gain freedom, even though we predicted the Israelis would never voluntarily relinquish the West bank. This is the most important challenge that the regime faces in the future. By colonizing the West Bank and despite official western media and government narratives, it is increasingly seen by the international community as the apartheid regime that it is. It is delegitimizing itself in the eyes of larger numbers of people.

In addition to that, it can no longer behave with impunity. The 2006 war in Lebanon where the Israeli armed forces were defeated by Hizbullah was a turning point. Before then, the Israelis had created an image that they were invincible. But now even in Gaza, they are unable to carry out their objectives when they periodically attack the territory and its civilians. The Israelis are now more easily contained especially since the Syrian government has been able to restore order and expel ISIS and al-Qaeda from areas neighboring Israeli forces on the occupied Golan Heights, despite the Israelis supporting the extremists. The Israelis have been contained regionally, at home they are increasingly seen as an apartheid regime. Its regional allies are also on the decline and regionally. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the only countries that can be considered as effective allies and they are facing a potential terminal decline. Therefore, regionally the regime is becoming more isolated. I do not believe that under such circumstances, the Israeli regime can last for very long. Just as the apartheid regime in South Africa collapsed under the burden of its own immoral existence, the Israeli regime will not last. There will be no two-state solution, the only realistic and moral solution is for Palestine to be united and for the indigenous population to have its rights restored, whether they are Palestinians, Jews or Christians or anyone else who is indigenous to the land.

The Saker: Iran is an Islamic Republic. It is also a majority Shia country. Some observers accuse Iran of wanting to export its political model to other countries. What do you make of that accusation? Do Iranian Islamic scholars believe that the Iranian Islamic Republic model can be exported to other countries, including Sunni countries?

Professor Marandi: I do not think that there is any validity to that accusation. Iran has a very excellent relationship with Iraq, but it has not imposed its model on the country. In fact, Iran helped create the current constitution of that country. The same is true for Lebanon and Yemen. Iran is constantly accused by its antagonists, but in the most inconsistent ways. Elsewhere they claim that Iran is afraid of their model being exported because they are fearful of rivals. Iran has always been attacked from all sides often using self-contradictory arguments. On the one hand, the so-called regime is allegedly immensely unpopular, it is corrupt, it is falling apart, and it is incapable of proper governance. Yet on the other hand, Iran is a growing threat to the region and even the world. This is paradoxical, how can Iran be incompetent and collapsing on the one hand, yet a growing threat to the whole world on the other hand? This simply does not make sense. Nevertheless, I have seen no evidence that Iran has tried to impose its model on other countries or on movements that are close to it. If it was not for Iran’s support, ISIS and al-Qaeda would have overthrown Syria with its secular government and secular constitution. Iranians firmly believed that the terrorist forces supported by Western intelligence services as well as regional regimes were the worst case scenario for the Syrian people. Did they impose their model?

The Saker: thank you for all your answers!

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqi Paramilitary Force Accuses US of Military Base Attacks

Sputnik – August 21, 2019

An ammunition depot at Iraq’s al-Saqr military base was hit by an explosion on 12 August, killing one person and leaving 13 injured. Weeks earlier, a similar blast took place at Amerli base.

Iraqi paramilitary force Hashd al-Shaabi has stated that Washington is responsible for the attacks on the country’s military bases, according to AFP.

“We announce that the first and last entity responsible for what happened are American forces, and we will hold them responsible for whatever happens from today onwards,” the paramilitary group said in a statement.

Earlier, a member of the Security and Defence Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, Karim Alaiwi, told Lebanese broadcaster al-Mayadeen that the explosions that rocked two Iraqi military bases held by the country’s Shi’ite paramilitaries were the result of unmanned Israeli airstrikes.

“We have proof that Israeli air forces hit several targets in Iraq, including the al-Saqr and Amerli bases. Israel claims that the Popular Mobilisation Forces have connections to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah,” the lawmaker claimed.

According to Alaiwi, the Jewish state is vying to weaken the militias through such airstrikes and even kill their members. He noted that Iraqi airspace is controlled by the US Air Force, indicating that Israel could not have struck the bases without Washington knowing it.

However, the Iraqi planes failed to detect drones in the sky over the bases, the official noted.

Previously, al-Mayadeen reported, citing sources familiar with the matter, that three unmanned aerial vehicles were spotted just before the explosion at the al-Saqr base.

On Tuesday, several blasts rocked a position held by Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries next to Balad airbase.

On 12 August, an ammunition depot at al-Saqr military base, controlled by the Iraqi militia, was hit by a blast which left 1 dead and 13 more injured. The specially-protected “green zone”, where government buildings and diplomatic missions are located, was struck. A source in the Iraqi security forces revealed that residential areas had also been put in harm’s way. On July 19, similar explosions occurred at Amerli’s base, with a number of media reporting a drone strike.

Subsequently, the Prime Minister of Iraq ordered the removal of all ammunition depots outside the Iraqi capital.

August 21, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel Actively Pushing Palestinians to Leave Gaza Strip

Palestine Chronicle | August 20, 2019

Israel is actively pushing Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip, asking a number of European and Middle Eastern countries to absorb them and offering to arrange their flights if they agree to emigrate.

The policy was disclosed by a senior official accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a diplomatic visit to Ukraine this week.

The unnamed official told reporters yesterday that Israel is in contact with third countries to see if they would be willing to absorb Palestinians from the besieged enclave, adding that:

“Israel is even willing to arrange transportation for them, at least to one of the airports in the Negev and arrange for them to travel out of the country”.

Israel’s National Security Council has been spearheading the initiative, with Netanyahu’s blessing, for about a year, the Times of Israel reported, citing the official.

The Israeli daily added that the program has also been discussed several times in Israel’s security cabinet.

The official conceded that, thus far, Israel has been unable to find any country willing to cooperate with its initiative, despite speaking to a number of Middle Eastern and European states.

He also claimed that thousands of Gazans are leaving of their own volition, pointing to 35,000 Palestinians who left the Strip in 2018. “That’s a pretty high number,” the official stated, even claiming that those who remain “are being held hostage in Gaza”.

The official, however, failed to mention Israel’s now 12-year-old siege of the Strip – which has devastated its infrastructure, economy, health sector and Palestinians’ livelihoods – or its three assaults on Gaza in the past decade. The UN has predicted that the Strip will be “unliveable” by 2020, calling the fate of Gaza’s some 1.9 million Palestinians into question.

Commentators have slammed the revelation, with Joint List Knesset Member (MK) Yousef Jabareen writing on Twitter: “The country that should welcome Palestinians from Gaza is Israel which, along with its obligation to remove the blockade on Gaza, should respect UN resolutions regarding Palestinian refugees as a part of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.”

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

End Foreign Aid to Israel and Everyone Else

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | August 20, 2019

Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are calling on the U.S. Congress to reevaluate U.S. foreign aid to the Israeli government. Their reason? Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denied entry into Israel for the two of them, owing to their public support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions movement, a global protest against the Israeli government’s longtime mistreatment of Palestinians.

Omar stated:

“We give Israel more than $3 [billion] in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.”

Unfortunately, however, Omar and Tlaib, like the rest of their Democratic counterparts, just don’t get it. In fact, neither does their nemesis, President Trump, and his Republican cohorts. Not only should the U.S. government stop foreign aid to the Israeli regime, it should stop it for every other regime in the world.

For one thing, consider that the Trump administration is spending $1 trillion this year more than it is bringing in with taxes. The difference? He’s borrowing it, thereby adding another trillion dollars to the $22 trillion dollars in federal debt that is already hanging over American taxpayers.

In fact, just recently Trump and his Democratic cohorts in Congress struck a mutually beneficial deal in which they agree to lift the debt ceiling to permit them to saddle American taxpayers with even more debt and, even worse, agreed to extend the debt ceiling until after the presidential election so that it would not be an issue for either party.

What better place to slash spending than by ending U.S. foreign aid to every regime that is on the U.S. dole? Yet, not one single Democrat or Republican thinks on that level. They just want to use foreign aid as a way to force foreign regimes to bend to the will of the U.S. Empire.

After all, let’s face it: U.S. foreign aid has nothing to do with helping the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged” in foreign countries. Instead, it has everything to do with bribery, blackmail, and extortion. The money or military armaments (or both) is given to foreign regimes with the aim of making them dependent on U.S. foreign-aid largess, sort of like when a heroin dealer hands out free samples to prospective customers.

Then, once the regime becomes dependent on the dole, it is expected to do what the U.S. Empire wants it to do. If it refuses to do it, there is a threat of an immediate cutoff of its dole. That usually is enough to get the foreign regime in line, especially because many foreign officials use the money to line their pockets and Swiss bank accounts as well as those of their bureaucratic and military-intelligence cohorts within the regime.

A good example of this phenomenon occurred in 1990. Yemen, which was one of the Empire’s dole recipients, voted in the UN against the Empire’s request of the UN to authorize the use of military force to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told Yemeni officials that their vote would be the most expensive vote they had ever cast. The Empire then proceeded to cut off its foreign aid to Yemen.

If Netanyahu suddenly relented and permitted Omar and Tlaib to be allowed to enter Israel without restrictions, there is little doubt that the two congresswomen would cease calling for a reexamination of foreign aid to Israel. And even if they persisted in calling for such a reexamination, all that they would want to do is redirect the money to their favorite regimes.

The most important argument against foreign aid is the moral one. The Empire forcibly takes money from Americans — the people who have earned it — and gives it to foreign government officials, to whom it does not belong. Americans, like everyone else in the world, have the moral right to keep their own money and decide for themselves what to do with it.

Abolish foreign aid to Israel and to everyone else. It’s the morally right and fiscally responsible thing to do.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 31 Comments

Paraguay Labels Hamas, Hezbollah ‘Terrorist Groups’; Israel Applauds

teleSUR | August 19, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Paraguay’s decision Monday to label Palestinian organization Hamas and Lebanese militant group and political party Hezbollah, as “international terrorist organizations,” a move that comes shortly after Argentina first blacklisted Hezbollah.

“I welcome the decision of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo to define Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations,” Netanyahu said in a statement  before he added that Israel is “working so that more countries will also take this important step.”

Paraguay announced its decision on Monday to designate the Lebanese group, along with the political faction of Hamas that governs Gaza in Palestine, as terrorist groups. The South American country’s presidency detailed that Hamas and Hezbollah will be ranked “international terrorist organizations” and al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group “global terrorist organizations”. The difference between the labels was not made clear.

With this resolution, the country “recognizes and reaffirms its commitment to redouble efforts to prevent and combat violent extremism”, the presidency stated.

Several states have already listed both groups as terrorists, among them Israel, the United States, and Canada. Washington designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1997. However, the U.S. has been recently leading a fierce campaign in the backdrop of its warmongering against Iran and has been pushing more and more countries to designate the Hezbollah (which is backed by Iran) as a terrorist group.

Argentina was the first Latin American country to take the step, gaining recognition from Washington’s neoconservatives,  including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Following Argentina’s move, a group of Republican lawmakers called on Pompeo to pressure Brazil and Paraguay to act the same and to designate Hezbollah.

“Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay are in a unique position to take meaningful strides in the fight against terrorism at the hands of Hezbollah,” said Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn in a statement at the time.

“We must recommit to ensuring that Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies are denied the resources they need to escalate their campaign of global terrorism,” added Ted Cruz, another Republican senator and co-signatory of the letter to Pompeo.

Hezbollah and Hamas leaders say their movements are resistance movements. The Palestine Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) was created out of the military occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza, while the Lebanese Party of God (Hezbollah) rose to oppose the presence of Israel in the south of Lebanon.

The pressure exercised on Israel to leave the south of Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005) produced massive popular support which resulted in victories in both municipal and national elections. Both armed groups shifted since then towards increasingly passive policies, though at the same time they continue to be condemned to ostracism by Israel, the U.S. and Europe.

Last month, Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Hezbollah political officials, including members of the Lebanese parliament, accusing the group of threatening the “economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region.”

RELATED: 

US Blames Hezbollah Leader for 1994 Buenos Aires Attack

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Palestinian Authority warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | August 19, 2019

Palestinian Authority (PA) yesterday warned of Israeli attempts to impose spatial divisions at Al-Aqsa Mosque as part of the electoral campaigns of right-wing parties led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Assabeel newspaper reported.

In a statement, the PA’s Foreign Ministry said that the ruling Israeli right-wing, headed by Netanyahu, “has been carrying out hundreds of judaisation projects” aiming to “change the status quo in Jerusalem, its holy sites and the surrounding neighbourhoods.”

“This judaisation campaign has been escalating in the light of the unprecedented and unlimited American support.”

“Israel believes it is almost completing its mission regarding the future of Jerusalem, so that it is taking punitive measures and putting pressure on Jerusalemites in order to push them out of the city,” the statement continued.

It is also working to impose temporal divisions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “ahead of reaching a point to completely demolish it.”

This, it said, was Israel’s “open war” against Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem and Jerusalemites.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

The Deeper Meaning in a Lost War

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 19, 2019

It’s pretty clear. Saudi Arabia has lost, and, notes Bruce Riedel, “the Houthis and Iran are the strategic winners”. Saudi proxies in Aden – the seat of Riyadh’s Yemeni proto-‘government’ – have been turfed out by secular, former Marxist, southern secessionists. What can Saudi Arabia do? It cannot go forward. Even tougher would be retreat. Saudi will have to contend with an Houthi war being waged inside the kingdom’s south; and a second – quite different – war in Yemen’s south. MbS is stuck. The Houthi military leadership are on a roll, and disinterested – for now – in a political settlement. They wish to accumulate more ‘cards’. The UAE, which armed and trained the southern secessionists has opted out. MbS is alone, ‘carrying the can’. It will be messy.

So, what is the meaning in this? It is that MbS cannot ‘deliver’ what Trump and Kushner needed, and demanded from him: He cannot any more deliver the Gulf ‘world’ for their grand projects – let alone garner together the collective Sunni ‘world’ to enlist in a confrontation with Iran, or for hustling the Palestinians into abject subordination, posing as ‘solution’.

What happened? It seems that MbZ must have bought into the Mossad ‘line’ that Iran was a ‘doddle’. Under pressure of global sanctions, Iran would quickly crumble, and would beg for negotiations with Trump. And that the resultant, punishing treaty would see the dismantling of all of Iran’s troublesome allies around the region. The Gulf thus would be free to continue shaping a Middle East free from democracy, reformers and (those detested) Islamists.

What made the UAE – eulogised in the US as tough ‘little Sparta’ – back off? It was not just that the Emirs saw that the Yemen war was unwinnable. That was so; but more significantly, it dawned on them that Iran was going to be no ‘doddle’. But rather, the US attempt to strangulate the Iranian economy risked escalating beyond sanctions war, into military confrontation. And in that eventuality, the UAE would be devastated. Iran warned explicitly that a drone or two landed into the ‘glass houses’ of their financial districts, or onto oil and gas facilities, would set them back twenty years. They believed it.

But there was another factor in the mix. “As the world teeters on the edge of another financial crisis”, Esfandyar Batmanghelidj has noted, “few places are being gripped by anxiety like Dubai. Every week a new headline portends the coming crisis in the city of skyscrapers. Dubai villa prices are at their lowest level in a decade, down 24 percent in just one year. A slump in tourism has seen Dubai hotels hit their lowest occupancy rate since the 2008 financial crisis – even as the country gears up to host Expo 2020 next year. As Bloomberg’s Zainab Fattah reported in November of last year, Dubai has begun to “lose its shine,” its role as a center for global commerce “undermined by a global tariff war—and in particular by the US drive to shut down commerce with nearby Iran””.

An extraneous Houthi drone landing in Dubai’s financial zone would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ (the expatriates would be out in a flash) – a prospect far more serious than the crisis of 2009, when Dubai’s real estate market collapsed, threatening insolvency for several banks and major development companies, some of them state-linked – and necessitating a $20 billion bailout.

In short, the Gulf realised MbS’ confrontation project with Iran was far too risky, especially with the global financial mood darkening so rapidly. Emirati leaders faced off with MbZ, the confrontation ideologue – and the UAE came out of Yemen formally (though leaving in situ its proxies), and initiated outreach to Iran, to take it out of that war, too.

It is now no longer conceivable that MbS can deliver what Trump and Netanyahu desired. Does this then mean that the US confrontation with Iran, and Jared Kushner’s Deal of the Century, are over? No. Trump has two key US constituencies: AIPAC and the Christian Evangelical ‘Zionists’ to ‘stroke’ electorally in the lead up to the 2020 elections. More ‘gifts’ to Netanyahu in the lead into the latter’s own election campaign are very likely also, as a part of that massaging of domestic constituencies (and donors).

In terms of the US confrontation with Iran, it seems that Trump is turning-down the volume on belligerence toward Iran, hoping that economic sanctions will work their ‘magic’ of bringing the Islamic Republic to its knees. There is no sign of that however – and no sign of any realistic US plan ‘B’. (The Lindsay Graham initiative is not one).

Where does that leave MbS in terms of US and Israeli interests? Well, to be brutal, and despite the family friendships … ’expendable’, perhaps? The scent of an eventual US disengagement from the region is again hanging in the air.

The deeper meaning in the ‘lost Yemen war’, ultimately, is an end to Gulf hopes that ‘magician’ Trump would undo the earlier Gulf panic that the West would normalise with Iran (through the JCPOA), thus leaving Iran as the paramount regional power. The advent of Trump, with all his affinity towards Saudi Arabia, seemed to Gulf States to promise the opportunity again to ‘lock in’ the US security umbrella over Gulf monarchies, protecting these states from significant change, as well as leaving Iran ‘shackled’, and unable to assume regional primacy.

A secondary meaning to Yemen is that Trump and Netanyahu’s heavy investment in MbS and MbZ has proved to be chimeric. These two, it turned out were ‘naked’ all along. And now the world knows it. They can’t deliver. They have been bested by a ragtag army of tough Houthi tribesmen.

The region now observes that ‘war’ isn’t happening (although only by the merest hair’s breadth): Trump is not – of his own volition – going to bomb Iran back to the 1980s. And Gulf States now see that if he did, it is they – the Gulf States – who would pay the highest price. Paradoxically, it has fallen to the UAE, the prime agitator in Washington against Iran, to lead the outreach toward Iran. It represents a salutary lesson in realpolitik for certain Gulf States (and Israel). And now that it has been learned, it is hard to see it being reversed quite so easily.

The strategic shift toward a different security architecture is already underway, with Russia and China proposing an international conference on security in the Persian Gulf: Russia and Iran already have agreed joint naval exercises in in the Indian Ocean and Hormuz, and China is mulling sending its warships there too, to protect its tankers and commercial shipping. Plainly, there will be some competition here, but Iran has the upper hand still in Hormuz. It is a powerful deterrent (though one best threatened, but not used).

Of course, nothing is assured in these changing times. The US President is fickle, and prone to flip-flop. And there are yet powerful interests in the US who do want see Iran comprehensively bombed. But others in DC – more significantly, on the (nationalist) Right – are much more outspoken in challenging the Iran ‘hawks’. Maybe the latter have missed their moment? The fact is, Trump drew back (but not for the stated reasons) from military action. America is now entering election season – and it is fixated on its navel. Foreign policy is already a forgotten, non-issue in the fraught partisan atmospherics of today’s America.

Trump likely will still ‘throw Israel a few bones’, but will that change anything? Probably, not much. That is cold comfort – but it might have been a lot worse for the Palestinians. And Greater Israel? A distant, Promethean hope.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Police raid Aqsa Mosque’s Bab al-Rahma, seize furniture

Days of Palestine – August 18, 2019

Israeli occupation police, on Saturday evening, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Bab al-Rahma prayer area and confiscated some furniture items.

Local sources said that Israeli police officers desecrated the Bab al-Rahma prayer area and embarked on carrying away shoe cabinets and patterned wood panels.

The sources added that the officers threatened Aqsa guards with arrest if they tried to prevent them from carrying out the confiscations.

The Israeli police had already removed furniture from the same prayer area recently, raising fears among the Jerusalemites about Israeli intents to reclose the place and turn it into a synagogue.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 2 Comments

FCO Speeds Up Planning to Move UK Embassy to Jerusalem

By Craig Murray | August 18, 2019

Following US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s talks with Boris Johnson and his ministers in London last week, FCO officials have been asked to speed up contingency planning for the UK to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with an eye to an “early announcement” post Brexit.

The UK is currently bound by an EU common foreign policy position not to follow the United States in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem. As things stand, that prohibition will fall on 1 November. FCO officials had previously been asked to produce a contingency plan, but this involved the construction of a £14 million new Embassy and a four year timescale. They have now been asked to go back and look at a quick fix involving moving the Ambassador and immediate staff to Jerusalem and renaming the Consulate already there as the Embassy. This could be speedily announced, and then implemented in about a year.

Johnson heads the most radically pro-Israel cabinet in UK history and the symbolic gesture of rejection of Palestinian rights is naturally appealing to his major ministers Patel, Javid and Raab. They also see three other political benefits. Firstly, they anticipate that Labour opposition to the move can be used to yet again raise accusations of “anti-semitism” against Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, it provides good “red meat” to Brexiteer support in marking a clear and, they believe, popular break from EU foreign policy, at no economic cost. Thirdly, it seals the special link between the Trump and Johnson administrations and sets the UK apart from other NATO allies.

Bolton also discussed the possibility of UK support for Israeli annexation of areas of the West Bank to “solve” the illegality of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. My FCO sources believe this is going to be much more difficult politically for the Cabinet to agree than simply moving the Embassy, due to lack of support on their own backbenches.

This is an insight into the future of British foreign policy if the Johnson government, and the UK, both survive. In the massive defeat of the UK at the UN General Assembly two months ago over the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands, the UK was in a voting block with only the USA, Israel, Australia, Hungary and the Maldives, against the rest of the world. The Maldives had a particular maritime interest there, but the leadership of the others – Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Scott Morrison, Benjamin Netanyahu and now Boris Johnson – constitute a distinct and extreme right wing bloc. These are very worrying times indeed.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tlaib and Omar’s Denial of Entry by Israel Is Not a “Freedom of Speech” Issue

By Rima Najjar – Global Research – August 18, 2019

For how long will discourse on the plight of the Palestinian people be hostage to the notion that “impartial observers”, i.e., the silent majority on Israel, must be addressed in a manner that accounts for “where they are, not where we’d like them to be”? And who defines where these people are in the first place?

According to Robert Cohen, UK Jewish blogger on Israel/Palestine, this is the truism that we ought to embrace — “impartial observers” are not ready to step out of their preconceived notions. Cohen’s critical remarks on Facebook regarding Israel’s ban of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting Israel and the occupied West Bank conclude with:

“Meanwhile, most impartial observers will wonder in what sense does Israel think of itself as a liberal democracy and upholder of free speech?”

Do we really believe that what “most impartial observers” will be concerned about upon hearing the news of Israel’s ban of Tlaib and Omar is the state of Israel’s “liberal democracy” rather than, say, Israel’s Jewish Nationalism and its devastating impact on the Palestinian people?

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement also issued a statement that referenced the lack of democratic values in the action of Israel’s government against the two U.S. Representatives, specifically the suppression of free speech:

The Palestinian-led BDS movement condemns the far-right Israeli government’s McCarthyite decision to prevent Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory over their support for Palestinian freedom. We call for cutting US military aid to Israel.

To me, Tlaib and Omar being denied entry into Palestine/Israel is not a freedom of speech issue (as in McCarthyism in Israel’s right-wing government). It is an issue of Israel and all its governments past and present denying and subjugating the Palestinian people since 1948. What needs to be highlighted is freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people, not freedom of speech in so-called democracies.

Palestinian-American legal scholar and human rights attorney Noura Erekat got it right. She commented on Facebook:

The fact that Palestinians can’t welcome Rashida #Tlaib & Ilhan #Omar on their own should indicate clearly to the world the lack of parity by Israel — an apartheid state- & Palestinians — a stateless people whom they continue to control, cage, & oppress. We are alive because of our resistance.

The belief or idea that this story “lends itself” to references to Israel’s long-running falsehood of “the only democracy in the Middle East” is outrageous, because Israel’s values and orientation have long been exposed as apartheid Jewish supremacist. Nobody is concerned or “wonders” about Israel’s so-called “liberal and democratic values” except so-called liberal Zionists.

And yet we persist in using terminology and purveying notions (directly and indirectly) coined for us by Zionist propaganda guidelines. As Palestine Legal posted in reference to similar current discourse on Israel/Palestine:

Using the IHRA’s poor definition of antisemitism, [Israel advocates] have succeeded in completely changing the discourse: rather than talk about the occupation, the Nakba, or its violation of national, human and civil rights, the dominant public discourse now revolves around what is or is not forbidden when it comes to criticism of Israel, and to what extent said criticism is antisemitic.

Withholding clear, unambiguous language from our forums continues to embolden racist apologists for Israel and agitators such as the following:

… In a discussion tinged with racism, Jewish power brokers in Detroit have vowed to get Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) out of office at any cost — “for Jewish reasons”…

Many “impartial observers” are fed up with the use of language in reports that beam insidious subliminal messages at us. A few days ago, after coming across report after report of unspeakable crimes against Palestinians committed by Israeli Jews colonizing the West Bank who were being uniformly referred to as “Israeli settlers”, I posted the following meme.

The meme resonated with many. Some wrote suggesting other names:

  • Illegal racist terrorists in Palestine
  • Jewish colonizers at least…
  • Extremist colonists
  • Prefer squatters
  • Prefer fascists
  • Fascist squatter colonizers.
  • Illegal SQUATTERS
  • Zionist supremacists
  • They are terrorists

Our language on current events concerning Israel/Palestine must project a decolonial future in Israel. Otherwise, we will never be able to shift the political paradigm in all of historic Palestine to one democratic secular state. A “reformed” Zionist reality, as in a “truly democratic” Jewish state, is a contradiction in terms. It is high time we moved on to a post Zionist reality.

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 12 Comments

Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report

Army patrol on the road | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
By Jean Drèze, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah and Vimal Bhai | Indian Cultural Forum | August 14, 2019

We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.

We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.

Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this.

Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done.

Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.

Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.

A summary of our observations

  • There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.

  • To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.

  • The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.

  • People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.

  • The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.

  • As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.

Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K

  • When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say – since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August!

  • As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’.

  • The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”

  • In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below)

  • There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”

Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A

  • A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.”

  • Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity.

  • Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi” (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”

  • “Modi has destroyed India’s own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own.

  • A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It’s first step towards Hindu Rashtra.”

  • In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won’t have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”

“Normalcy” – Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”?

Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.

  • One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).”

  • The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions!

Invitations cancelled I Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.

  • The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about.

  • All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid.

  • In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?”

  • On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.”

Eid in Pulwama | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn’t well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris – on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people.

  • Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice.

  • A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold.

  • An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more – but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals – but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler – when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.

Protests, Repression, and Brutality

  • Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road.

  • We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting.

Pellet gun victim | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai
  • On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets.

  • At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held.

  • A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest – it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami – but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.

  • In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.

  • Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” – i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” – i.e is killed in custody – the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”

  • But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”

The Gag On Media

  • A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?”

  • Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function.

  • Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities.

  • Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices.

  • When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi.

  • As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF

A checkpoint in Srinagar | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai

Does Kashmir Lack Development?

In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.”

We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all.

  • It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand.

  • The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.

  • There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir.

  • We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here – that is three or four times what we earn in other states.”

  • We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man.

  • The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”

The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning”

We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share – that’s a license”, he said.

He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country.

Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy.

Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”

Conclusion

The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.

  • We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.

  • We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.

  • We demand that communications – including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.

  • We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished – and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.

  • We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.

Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Cluster Bomb Kills Lebanese Child in South Lebanon

Eight-year-old Ali Abbas Maatouk was martyred when a cluster bomb submunition detonated (Wednesday, August 14, 2019).
Al-Manar | August 15, 2019

A bomb left over from Israeli 2006 July War on Lebanon exploded Wednesday, killing a child in south Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Eight-year-old Ali Abbas Maatouk was martyred and another child injured when the cluster bomb submunition detonated as they played in the village of Toul in Nabatieh.

They were rushed to Toul’s Sheikh Ragheb Harb Hospital.

Maatouk succumbed to his wounds upon arrival, Hasan Bourgi, an emergency room doctor, told The Daily Star.

“His head injury was too severe, despite resuscitation attempts,” Bourgi said. He added that the other child suffered shrapnel wounds to the stomach but was in stable condition.

The tragedy struck on the 13th anniversary of the end of the 33-day war, during which the Israeli warplanes “rained an estimated 4 million submunitions on south Lebanon, the vast majority over the final three days,” a Human Rights Watch report said.

It called Israel’s use of cluster bombs “indiscriminate and disproportionate, in violation of [international humanitarian law], and in some locations possibly a war crime.”

Some 40 percent of the munitions did not explode, NGO Mines Advisory Group said.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments