Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Palestinian prisoners reach agreement to achieve demands, end hunger strike

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network | April 16, 2019

Palestinian prisoners have reached an agreement with the Israeli prison administration to achieve their demands and suspend their hunger strike, the Battle of Dignity 2, on Monday, 15 April. The agreement came as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were engaged in their eighth day of a collective hunger strike.

According to the leadership of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, the agreement includes the installation of public telephones in the prison sections, which prisoners would be allowed to use three times a week for 15-minute calls, as well as stopping the installation of cell-phone jamming devices. In addition, the repressive measures and sanctions imposed in the past year upon the prisoners will also be lifted, while fines imposed on prisoners in recent struggles inside the prisons would be reduced. Hundreds more prisoners have been set to join the hunger strike in the coming days, especially 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said that the agreement also included provisions to transfer the women prisoners from Damon prison to another detention center; the prisoners have repeatedly cited harsh, difficult conditions unsuitable for human life in the Damon prison. In addition, sick prisoners would be returned to the previous section in the Ramleh prison clinic, an area that was considered better than their current location.

The National and Islamic Forces held a press conference in Gaza City to highlight the prisoners’ final statement. “The battle is not over; the hardest phase of this struggle is to implement what has been agreed upon,” the prisoners wrote, noting that previous agreements have been repeatedly broken by the Israeli prison administration.

They saluted the prisoners in section 4 of the Negev desert prison and section 1 in Ramon prison who were attacked by Israeli repressive forces, noting that “their great sacrifices underline that freedom and dignity are… human rights that cannot be denied.” They saluted Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, occupied Palestine ’48 and exile and diaspora, as well as supporters of freedom around the world, journalists and prisoners’ centers, that stood with the prisoners in their struggle. The statement particularly saluted “the people and leadership in Gaza,” noting their unity in commitment to the struggle.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its strongest salutes and greetings to all of the Palestinian prisoners on this occasion of victory. These achievements follow on many historical accomplishments of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, on the front lines of the Palestinian liberation struggle, extracting their victories through great sacrifice, with their bodies and lives on the line. As Palestinian Prisoners Day approaches, we emphasize our continuing dedication to work for the freedom of all Palestinian prisoners and the freedom of Palestine from the river to the sea.

Mohammed Tabanja, Hussam al-Ruzza, Khaled Farraj

In addition, we urge people around the world to continue their solidarity activities to support the Palestinian prisoners, throughout the coming days, months and years, until their freedom is achieved. In particular, we emphasize the cases of three Palestinian prisoners who remain on hunger strike: Hussam al-Ruzza (61), Mohammed Tabanja (40) and Khaled Farraj (31). Al-Ruzza has been on hunger strike since 19 March – nearly one month – while Tabanja and Farraj have been on hunger strike since 25 March. All are held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders, and their detention has been repeatedly and arbitrarily renewed.

They are among nearly 500 Palestinians out of approximately 5,500 Palestinian prisoners jailed with no charges and no trial for indefinitely renewable periods under administrative detention. The end of administrative detention is a long-time demand of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and supporters of justice and liberation around the world. Join the call to free Hussam al-Ruzza, Mohammed Tabanja, Khaled Farraj and all Palestinian prisoners!

April 16, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian prisoners launch collective hunger strike to demand justice and dignity

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – April 8, 2019

Palestinian prisoners have announced the launch of a collective hunger strike in Israeli prisons on Monday, 8 April to demand an end to the ongoing and escalated repression inside the prisons. The strike is being led by a number of leaders from all of the Palestinian political parties and organizations inside Israeli prisons, with 120 prisoners launching the open hunger strike as a first step toward a collective hunger strike of all prisoners, in a declaration of a “second battle of dignity (Karameh).”

The Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners said that the strike was launched in response to the Israel Prison Service’s reneging on previously agreed-upon understandings to lessen the level of repression imposed on the prisoners. Specifically, Allam Kaabi said, the prison administration had previously agreed to make telephone calls available to all except for those classified by the occupation as “security matters,” but then disavowed that understanding.  The prisoners are represented by a leadership group representing all political forces; Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian national leader and the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is part of this coordinating committee.

The strike comes one day before the Israeli elections, in which a slew of right-wing candidates have competed with one another to pledge harsher attacks against the Palestinian people, including Palestinians in Gaza and Palestinian political prisoners.

As part of his own campaign efforts, Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of Internal Security, has imposed even more harsh repressive measures on Palestinian prisoners alongside public announcements and displays in an attempt to boost support for the Likud. (It should be noted that Erdan is also head of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, responsible for global campaigns against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and Palestine solidarity. In this context, Erdan has focused specific attacks on human rights organizations and solidarity groups supporting Palestinian prisoners, including Samidoun.)

These repressive attacks have included multiple invasions of prisoners’ cells, rooms and sections by heavily armed repressive units. Prisoners’ belongings have been searched and confiscated, while multiple prisoners have been transferred from section to section. Prisoners have been beaten by these forces, who have also fired tear gas within the confined space of prison sections, leading to multiple injuries. Thousands of books have been confiscated from the prisoners, while family visits have been banned for many prisoners, especially those associated with the Hamas movement. In addition, devices such as surveillance cameras and alleged mobile-phone jammers have been installed in the prisons, further elevating the level of surveillance faced by the prisoners.

These attacks have come under the banner of Erdan’s committee to “examine the conditions of the prisoners” in order to “impose a new reality” on Palestinian prisoners – precisely designed to roll back the rights that the prisoners have only won through years of struggle, including hunger strikes and other protests. The prisoners’ demands include: the installation of public telephones in the prisons to allow them to communicate with their families, the removal of the jamming devices, the return of family visits to normal and the abolition of all of the repressive measures, sanctions and penalties imposed on the prisoners.

According to breaking news reports from Palestine, key leaders of the prisoners’ movement and the Palestinian national liberation movement as a whole have joined the strike and hundreds are planning to join the strike in the coming days. The strike is planned to escalate on 17 April, marked in Palestine and internationally as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. There are currently around 5,500 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including 48 women, 230 children and nearly 500 held without charge or trial under indefinitely renewable administrative detention orders. … more at Samidoun

April 8, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

Artificial Morality

By Robert Koehler | CounterPunch | March 15, 2019

Artificial Intelligence is one thing. Artificial morality is another. It may sound something like this:

“First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.”

The words are those of Microsoft president Brad Smith, writing on a corporate blogsite last fall in defense of the company’s new contract with the U.S. Army, worth $479 million, to make augmented reality headsets for use in combat. The headsets, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, are a way to “increase lethality” when the military engages the enemy, according to a Defense Department official. Microsoft’s involvement in this program set off a wave of outrage among the company’s employees, with more than a hundred of them signing a letter to the company’s top executives demanding that the contract be canceled.

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

Wow, words of conscience and hope. The deeper story in all this is ordinary people exercising their power to shape the future and refusing to increase its lethality.

With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Smith goes on, acknowledging that no institution, including the military, is perfect, but pointing out that “one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars,” cherry-picking such lauded oldies as the Civil War and World War II, where America’s enhanced lethality freed slaves and liberated Europe.

Fascinatingly, the tone of his blog post is not arrogant toward the employees — do what you’re told or you’re fired — but, rather, softly placating, seeming to indicate that the power here isn’t concentrated at the upper levels of management. Microsoft is flexible: “As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team — for whatever reason — we want them to know we support talent mobility.”

The employees who signed the letter demanded cancellation of the Defense contract. Smith offered their personal consciences an out: Come on, join another team if you don’t want to cross the line and work on weapons development. Microsoft honors employees of multiple moral persuasions!

Artificial Intelligence is a high-tech phenomenon that requires highly complex thinking. Artificial morality hides behind the nearest cliché in servitude to money.

What I see here is moral awakening scrambling for sociopolitical traction: Employees are standing for something larger than sheer personal interests, in the process pushing the Big Tech brass to think beyond their need for an endless flow of capital, consequences be damned.

This is happening across the country. A movement is percolating: Tech won’t build it!

“Across the technology industry,” the New York Times reported in October, “rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere.

“That’s a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs.”

What if moral thinking — not in books and philosophical tracts, but in the real world, both corporate and political — were as large and complex as technical thinking? It could no longer hide behind the cliché of the just war (and surely the next one we’re preparing for will be just), but would have to evaluate war itself — all wars, including the ones of the past 70 years or so, in the fullness of their costs and consequences — as well as look ahead to the kind of future we could create, depending on what decisions we make today. Complex moral thinking doesn’t ignore the need to survive, financially and otherwise, in the present moment, but it stays calm in the face of that need and sees survival as a collective, not a competitive, enterprise.

Moral complexity is called peace. There is no such thing as simplistic peace.

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Iran to US: Era of meddling in other countries over

Press TV | March 12, 2019

Tehran slams the US for sticking to its interventionist policies after an American official sought to cast doubt on the motives of the Iranian president’s trip to Iraq, saying the two neighbors have chosen to build strategic relations based on good neighborliness and seek permission from no one for their choices.

“Iran and Iraq are two independent countries, whose governments have been elected by the votes of the two countries’ people and undoubtedly these two nations…do not need a country with a black record of aggression and warmongering and destruction to make decisions on their behalf from thousands of kilometers away,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.

He made the remarks in reaction to claims by US Special Representative Brian Hook about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s ongoing visit to Iraq.

In an interview with Alhurrha TV on Monday, Hook questioned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “motives” regarding Iraq and said when the Iranian government does “prioritize his own people so why on earth he would prioritize the welfare of the Iraqi people.”

“President Rouhani coming to Iraq is not in the interest of the Iraqi people”, Hook said, claiming that Iran wants to secure a “military highway” through Iraq to the Western parts of the Middle East to transfer missiles, weapons and fighters across the Middle East.

The Iranian spokesperson dismissed the allegations and said “this American official’s anger is not surprising because it seems that his country has failed to gain a proper position among regional nations despite spending billions of dollars in the Middle East.”

Qassemi emphasized that Washington’s aggressive policies, militarism and interventionism are the main reasons behind its lack of success.

He urged US officials to set aside their decades-long excessive demands and realize that the era of meddling in the affairs of other countries and making decisions for them has come to an end.

Rouhani arrived in Baghdad at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation on Monday on his first visit to the country since 2013. The three-day trip is aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite US efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran’s influence in the region.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Iran and Iraq hailed the Iranian president’s historic visit to Iraq as a “turning point” in efforts to strengthen “strategic” cooperation between the two neighbors based on non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

During Rouhani’s visit, the two neighbors have inked several agreements on the expansion of bilateral cooperation in various economic and healthcare sectors.

See also:

In joint statement, Iran, Iraq hail ‘turning point’ in ‘strategic’ cooperation

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft workers demand company cancel $480 million US military contract

Press TV – February 23, 2019

Nearly 100 employees at Microsoft have demanded that the US technology company cancel a $480 million hardware contract to supply the US military, the latest example in the last year of tech employees protesting cooperation with the Pentagon on emerging technologies.

Some 94 workers signed a petition on Friday calling on the company to stop developing “any and all weapons technologies” for the US Defense Department.

Microsoft won a contract in November to supply the US Army with at least 2,500 prototypes of augmented reality headsets, which digitally display contextual information in front of a user’s eyes.

The US Defense Department has said the devices would be used on the battlefield and in training to improve soldiers “lethality, mobility and situational awareness.”

In the petition to Microsoft executives, posted on Twitter, the workers said they “did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” They called on the company to develop “a public-facing acceptable use policy” for its technology and an external review board to publicly enforce it.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said in an October blog post that the company remained committed to assisting the military and would advocate for laws to ensure responsible use of new technologies.

Though many US government agencies want to draw upon the expertise of the biggest American tech companies, employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complicated relationships.

Worker opposition led Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc last year to announce it would cancel a Pentagon contract in which its artificial intelligence technology is used to analyze drone imagery.

In other cases, employee criticism has invited greater public scrutiny to deals, such as $10 billion cloud computing contract yet to be awarded and various contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Hispaniola Rising: How the US Coup in Venezuela Is Taking Root in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, and the people of those nations are not taking their governments’ support for the US coup in Venezuela lightly.

By Ariel Fornari | MintPress News | February 15, 2019

As Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss for 20 pieces of silver, the institutionally corrupt governments in Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo have written another sad chapter in their nation’s history.

Ironically, it was Venezuela that helped to develop the island’s energy infrastructure in recent years. A key part of this is the REFIDOMSA oil refinery in the Dominican Republic which the Venezuelan government helped to develop and partially owns, and which has also been used to help alleviate increased fuel demands and shortages in Haiti.

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, which provided subsidized crude oil prices to meet the countries critical energy demands.  The Petrocaribe oil agreement, allowed for governments to pay only 60 percent of the oil shipments they purchase from Venezuela. The remaining 40 percent could be financed over 25 years at 1 percent interest, as long as oil prices stayed above $40 per barrel. This allowed for tremendous savings, and money that (according to the agreement) was supposed to be used for socially beneficial purposes.

Countries such as Nicaragua, Jamaica, Cuba, and many islands in the eastern Caribbean have successfully utilized Petrocaribe funds and other Venezuelan support mechanisms, investing in vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, and have used the funding to avoid austerity deals with the IMF and other international financial institutions. Corrupt politicians in Hispaniola, though, whose regimes are closely aligned with Washington, have by contrast become well-known for robbing many of the funds meant for the social needs of their population.

For this reason, the date of January 10, 2019, will go down in the historical memory of the Dominican and Haitian peoples, as an ignominious reminder of the historically aberrant role of the Organization of American States (OAS), when that body was used as a front by neo-conservative policymakers in Washington. It was on that date that the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic voted to no longer recognize Venezuela’s legitimately elected president.

The people of Hispaniola, on both sides of the island, are waking up. They are coming to understand how the political orders in their countries are being managed by Washington and how local corrupt elites are stealing the solidarity funds sent by Venezuela while failing to meet the needs of the local population. Haitians and Dominicans are organizing protests, meeting at homes and schools to discuss what is happening, learning on social media and through news spread over Whats App and Facebook. Hispaniola’s betrayal of Venezuela will not be taken lightly.

The people of Hispaniola know better. They know that it was the U.S., not Venezuela, that twice invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic; they know of the multiple coups and occupations that the U.S. has carried out in Haiti.  The Dominican collective memory still bears the deep scars of the over 2,000 Dominicans that perished during the invasion of Santo Domingo by the U. S. marines in April, 1965. (Dominican historians calculate that the actual figure of deaths including civilians & military during the 1965 invasion & occupation, could have been as high as 5,000). Haitians still march annually protesting the 1991 and 2004 Coup d’états, which cost the lives of so many thousands, as many human rights studies verified, such as a paper in the Lancet Medical Journal that found that upward of 8,000 people were killed as a result of the 2004 coup and pro-US paramilitary violence. A decade prior it was estimated that more than 10,000 were killed in the wake of the 1991 coup.

We need also to remember how the U.S. supported the ruthless Trujillo and Duvalierist dictatorships. We must not forget the first U. S. invasion & occupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that took place in the early 20thcentury during the Era of Gunboat Diplomacy in the Central-American and Caribbean Basin.

It is against this compelling & stark historical background, that we are confronted again with tumultuous events in the region, when the U. S. is once more employing the infamous & wholly discredited OAS, in its theatrical charade to lend an air of “legitimacy” to the recent lopsided vote against Venezuela. While 14 of the CARICOM states, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Uruguay, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, India, South Africa, and nearly all of the states in mother Africa continue to recognize the elected government, the U.S. has found support from its rightwing and neoliberal allied governments across Latin America, Europe, and in Israel. Shockingly, the Dominican Republic and Haiti joined with the U.S. in denouncing Bolivarian Venezuela.

This eerily reminds some of us old enough to remember, of those similarly turbulent days in the hemisphere during 1962, when an OAS meeting took place in a beach resort known as Punta del Este, Uruguay as Cuba was removed from the body. It was at that OAS meeting, that the legendary Foreign Minister of Cuba Dr. Raul Roa, forever baptized that odious organization as “The Ministry of Yankee Colonies”.

Dominicans won’t accept their government stabbing Caracas in the back

Precisely because of these historical realities that transpired in Hispaniola & the region, vis-à-vis the “Colossus of the North”, the popular movements & social organizations of the Dominican Republic have again assumed their vanguard roles as national leaders, mobilizing throughout the country, reminding the people of the historic legacy serving as background to current events, once again building up the people’s collective consciousness, illustrating that these latest events have not happened in a vacuum.  Within this context, a broad coalition of popular movements & organizations, scheduled a vigil on February 5, 2019, In Santiago, the heart of the northern Cibao region of the country, comprising 13 key provinces which have played a determining role in this country’s history, going back all the way to its independence in the mid 19thCentury.

The deep solidarity bonds of Venezuela towards the Dominican nation can be traced further back in time, when in 1930 the first outflow of Dominican exiles began arriving in the “Patria de Bolivar”, fleeing the U.S. backed Trujillo’s dictatorship. Professor Juan Bosch, a legendary figure of Dominican history & who in 1962 became the first democratically elected President after the fall of Trujillo, arrived in this first contingent of Dominican exiles in Venezuela. Bolivar’s homeland in turn became the safe harbor of patriotic activism against Trujillo, by the Dominican diaspora. This anti-Trujillo militancy from Venezuela became so intense, that the “Satrap of the Caribbean” as Trujillo was sometimes known, ordered an assassination attempt against President Betancourt of Venezuela in 1960. The Dictator Trujillo was finally assassinated in 1961

After the fall of Trujillo & the ascent to power in Dominican Republic of another lackey of U. S. imperialism-President Joaquin Balaguer, whose elections in 1966 were known to have been financed by the U. S. Department of State according to declassified files, over 2,000 Dominican combatants that participated in the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1965, arrived in Venezuela. Afterwards during the re-election of Balaguer in 1971-72, hundreds of Dominicans also migrated to Venezuela.  The situation in D. R. then became so untenable for many Dominicans due to Balaguer’s fierce persecution of opponents, it is estimated upwards of 60,000 of them migrated to Venezuela. Eventually, the Dominican diaspora in Venezuela became the largest migration inflow from the insular Caribbean, up to the ascent to power of Chavez, at which time Cubans began to increasingly arrive in Venezuela, composing in part the core of Chavez’s “Mision Barrio Adentro” massive health clinics projects, in the poor neighborhoods of the country.

In summary, the brotherly hospitality & solidarity afforded to Dominicans in Venezuela, throughout 20thCentury migratory periods, along with the aforementioned fact of Venezuela’s consistent solidarity with Dominican Republic through the generous Petrocaribe oil agreement, this honorable background stands in stark contrast to D. R.’s “Kiss of Judas” vote at the OAS against Venezuela, on January 10, 2019. This “Kiss of Judas” comes at a time when Bolivarian Venezuela faces a mounting economic war undertaken by the U.S. and its allies, compounded by a huge decline in the international price of oil.

With Dominicans aware of their history and learning the truth about the empire’s actions in the region, in the coming months, it appears very likely that the elite consensus in Dominican politics will begin to be shaken, as Danilo Medina faces a crisis of legitimacy.

Jovenel Moïse’s treason and the oncoming tidal wave of resistance

It was Haitians who stood out within our concert of colonized Caribbean nations, as the people which decisively proved in the field of battle, that the very best of Europe could be defeated in war when it finally gained independence from France in 1804. Venezuela’s & Haiti’s history is also intertwined, when in 1816 Petion gave arms, money & men to Bolivar, for the cause of independence of Venezuela, which in turn eventually liberated Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia from imperial Spain.

More recently, during the second Presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Venezuela was one of the only countries which kept providing financial support to the Haitian government as it was embargoed and undermined by the George Bush administration. Furthermore, it was Chavez who was the only Latin American leader who forcefully denounced the 2004 coup against Aristide. Afterwards, during the Preval and then the rightwing Martelly & Moise regimes, Venezuela continued its unconditional solidarity with the people of Haiti, through its Petrocaribe agreement, as well as providing financial assistance for infrastructure projects. Venezuela has never required the conditionalities, nor the political alignment, for its aid, as have the supranational agencies and countries of the north. A true friend.

Regarding Venezuela & Haiti we must remember, that during Chavez’s tenure & following Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution soon thereafter announced Venezuela would “write off” Haiti’s undisclosed oil debts.  At an ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) foreign ministers’ meeting after the earthquake, Chavez remarked that “it wasn’t Haiti that had a debt with Venezuela, but just the opposite Venezuela had a debt with that nation.”  He also mentioned that an initial donation of $10 million would be disbursed to Haiti for emergency energy needs, along with an additional $100 million “for starters” towards infrastructure projects. Additionally, Chavez mentioned, one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via “mobile service stations” to be up and running within a few weeks. The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti also included support for such sectors as agriculture production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc’s member-states. At that time also, Cuba and Venezuela sent assistance and aid workers to Haiti within days of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that left an estimated 150,000-200,000 dead and more than a million people homeless.

To illustrate that unique internationalist relationship between Venezuela & Haiti, we must witness the Venezolana de Television report of Chavez’s trip to Haiti in 2007,  exemplifying the close emotional bond between these two Caribbean nations, which Chavez in great measure revived as he recuperated its historic memory jogging openly with the peoples of Cite Soleil and Bel Air through the streets of Port-au-Prince. In this report, you will witness the incredible feat of Chavez leaving his vehicle, as he actually joins the joyful masses in Port Au Prince, which are jogging in unison along his motorcade. On the other side of the historical spectrum, when Nixon as Vice President visited Venezuela in 1958 the total opposite occurred at that time. Instead of joyful crowds awaiting Nixon, enraged Venezuelans violently assaulted his limousine, manifesting the people’s rebuke of the U. S.’s close collaboration with the ruthless dictatorship of Perez Jimenez, which had recently ended.

As Moïse’s unpopular government has been caught up in corruption scandals and as complaints grow over the worsening economic situation and a lack of government support for the poor, in recent months the USPGN (Moïse’s own personal security forces) took part in a violent massacre targeting an anti-government slum. With Moïse facing mass protests his government increasingly takes its cues from Washington.

With regards to Jovenel Moïse’s governemnt’s treasonous vote against Venezuela at the OAS, another of its aberrant dimensions was its diametrical position vis-à-vis the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member. CARICOM’s position has been unequivocal in contravention to the virtually neocolonial position of OAS Secretary Almagro, who by all reasonable standards has become a virtual mouthpiece of Uncle Sam at the “Ministry of Yankee Colonies.” CARICOM on the one hand recognizes the legitimacy of President Maduro of Venezuela, while the OAS secretary general Luis Almagro has recognized the so-called “self-proclaimed” interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.

Haiti has long been in the crosshairs of the Empire and its local proxies. In recent years top elites have sought to restructure the county’s economy and political scene. This has come after the U.S. and its allies have essentially neutralized the country’s sovereignty & independence, heavily influencing, installing regimes, or supporting political processes that relied on heavy vote suppression and years of political disenfranchisement (such as in 2016 with one the lowest percentages of voter participation in the world). This is the same unpopular & corrupt regime, which has been the subject of massive nationwide protests against its misuse of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe funds, starting on August, 2018, and which continually burst out throughout the following months & into February, 2019.

These protests were practically made invisible by Western mainstream media, even as their brutal repression has been well documented by citizen journalists and local grassroots groups.

Hispaniola Rising!

In spite of the backstabbing vote of the corrupt Dominican and Haitian administration’s against Venezuela at the OAS, the people of Hispaniola’s solidarity with Venezuela has been manifest in many ways.

Huge marches backed by many grassroots groups and Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party have called for an end to the foreign occupation and new sovereign elections, while a smaller opposition party Pitit Dessalin has planned demonstrations in support of the legitimacy of President Maduro. Already Haitian paramilitary and police forces are being used to brutally attack these demonstrations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Hispaniola, on February 17, 2019, a massive demonstration in support of Venezuela is scheduled to take place, at the Parque Independencia of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Student groups and activist circles across the country are being mobilized and are coming to understand the threat that Trump and his neo-con allies present.

In view of all the aforementioned, this writer while not an expert on geopolitics or history, by virtue of the fact of having been born in the Caribbean, & having closely observed its regional history since childhood & comprising many decades, I have reasonably concluded that this recent crisis between Venezuela & the Empire (or the “Colossus of the North”), could perhaps be opening a new threshold in the correlation of forces in the hemisphere, to the point where we could almost start leaning towards the conclusion, that perhaps the United States of America is no longer the absolute master of this hemisphere, say as it was the case prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

What we are witnessing now are key nations such as Venezuela deciding to chart a course in favor of thier own people, implementing the re-foundation of the nation-state, while further steering away from the imperial diktat. At the same time, it is obvious that the Empire while commencing its decline, still exerts plenty of hemispheric muscle, as the treacherous OAS vote of Haiti & Dominican Republic has shown, in spite of Venezuela’s committed and honorable solidarity record with these two sister nations. Informing the younger generations about the history of the U.S. empire in the region, about the role of soft power in the media, and what is happening around the region today is vital. Also vital are creating new bonds and working to unify popular sectors to oppose the plans of Washington and their clients, to once again build south-south bonds and regional development from below.

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran ready to help new Lebanon government upon request: FM Zarif

Press TV – February 10, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran is ready to cooperate with the new Lebanese government in all sectors.

“If the Lebanese government demands, Iran is ready to cooperate with this country in all fields,” Zarif told reporters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Sunday, shortly after his arrival for a two-day official visit.

Zarif congratulated the Lebanese on the formation of a new national unity government and said he was there to express Iran’s solidarity with Lebanon.

The top Iranian diplomat emphasized that Lebanon is the symbol of resistance in the Middle East.

Zarif is scheduled to hold talks with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Monday.

The Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Beirut came a few weeks after Lebanon’s presidency announced the formation of the new national unity government, putting an end to a nine-month stalemate on the political stage, which fueled the Arab country’s economic woes.

The new government, headed by Hariri, includes 30 ministers from most Lebanese political factions, which have been in talks after the country in May 2018 held its first parliamentary elections in nine years.

Earlier this week, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah strongly dismissed latest allegations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the movement is in control of the Lebanese government, stressing the new administration belongs to all political factions participating in it.

The Israeli premier is “provoking the United States, European countries and the [Persian] Gulf states against the Lebanese government, claiming that it is controlled by Hezbollah. Such false claims have serious international repercussions,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said as he addressed his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from Beirut.

February 10, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , | 2 Comments

US federal judge dismisses lawsuit against BDS supporters

MEMO | February 7, 2019

Pro-Israeli groups have suffered a major defeat in a US court after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to endorse the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

On Monday a district court in Washington threw out the lawsuit against ASA, which is the oldest scholarly organisation devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history. The federal judge ruled that the anti-BDS plaintiffs were unable to explain how they were injured by the boycott, a requirement for the lawsuit to go forward.

The ruling is a significant victory for human rights campaigners and a blow to efforts by Israel lobby groups to use courts to harass, intimidate and silence supporters of Palestinian rights in US universities – a tactic known as lawfare. It’s also a major boost for Americans sacked from their jobs on the back of anti-BDS legislation, denounced by critics as unconstitutional.

Pro-Israeli group, the Louis D. Brandeis Centre, filed a lawsuit against ASA in April 2016 over its resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The lawsuit argued that in adopting the resolution, which was voted on by an overwhelming democratic majority, the ASA operated beyond its corporate charter and caused the plaintiffs to “suffer significant economic and reputational damage.”

In the court’s 20-page ruling, US District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote that the pro-Israeli group had “danced around key issues” and was unable to show that they had suffered enough monetary damages to warrant a federal case.

The judge found that at most, the individual plaintiffs could seek damages of a few hundred dollars to cover membership dues they allege were misappropriated, but they would have to find some other venue to pursue their claims.

Radhika Sainath, senior attorney with the civil rights group Palestine Legal, summed up the court’s judgement saying that “the court basically said, in no uncertain words, that the plaintiffs suing ASA lied when they claimed to have ‘suffered significant economic and reputational damage’.”

“But, as the court explained, ‘nowhere’ in the lawsuit could the plaintiffs explain what that damage was. It didn’t pass the smell test,” she added.

One of the four co-defendants, Dr Stephen Salaita, an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights who was fired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for tweets criticising Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, said after the verdict: “I’m thrilled that this baseless case has been dismissed. It served no purpose other than persecuting those who dare to criticise Israeli policy and seek to end the occupation through peaceful means,”

Another co-defendant Wesleyan University Professor Kehaulani Kauanui denounced the lawsuit as a politically motivated attempt to suppress free speech. “The Brandeis Centre did not hold back its clear intent to punish me for standing up in solidarity with Palestinians and to deter others. They don’t call it lawfare for nothing.”

The court’s decision comes in the context of a broader federal assault on BDS for Palestinian human rights. On Tuesday, the US Senate passed a measure that would criminalise politically motivated boycotts of Israel across the US.

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 3 Comments

Palestinian Professors’ Unions Urge Pitzer College to Uphold Faculty Vote to Suspend Study Abroad with Complicit Israeli Institutions

Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), February 5, 2019

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) supports the faculty at Pitzer College calling to suspend a complicit study abroad program in Israel over its discriminatory practices.

PFUUPE, which represents more than 6,000 Palestinian university staff at 13 higher education institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory, commends our colleagues at Pitzer College for overwhelmingly supporting this principled stand for Palestinian human rights and for equality.

Most importantly, we thank you for listening to us and acting upon the call from the vast majority of Palestinians, including academics and students, to refrain from business-as-usual academic relations with Israeli institutions while we are forced to live under oppression.

We hold dear the universal right to academic freedom, on principle and because Palestinians are obliged to fight for it every day, along with our right to education.

Our faculty members have, for decades, faced the policy of restricting movement and travel imposed by the Israeli occupation. This severely hampers our academic freedom, namely to reach our campuses, to teach our students, to conduct research, to collaborate with other academics or institutions and to participate in conferences, whether within the occupied Palestinian territory or abroad.

Israel also obstructs importation of academic material and scientific equipment for Palestinian universities, effectively imposing a boycott on our institutions of higher education.

Israel’s discriminatory policies further prevent international academics and students, in particular those of Palestinian/Arab origins or those supporting Palestinian rights, from teaching, studying and attending conferences at our universities. The past two years have seen an uptick in racially- or opinion- based denial of entry to Israel and refusal of visas and visa renewals, a repressive and deeply discriminatory Israeli policy that has long been customary.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Palestinian schools and universities in Gaza, and its illegal and brutal siege has denied the two million Palestinians there, including hundreds of thousands of students, their basic right to freedom of movement. Israel’s decade-old siege of Gaza is making it uninhabitable, according to the UN.

Palestinian students and faculty in the Israeli-occupied West Bank also face campus raids with Israeli soldiers firing live munitions and tear gas.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are subjected to Israel’s institutionalized racism, while Palestinian students face repressive restrictions on political activities and Palestinian educational facilities are underfunded.

We ask the Pitzer College community to try to imagine what it is like studying, teaching or performing research under these dire conditions of racism, repression and violent oppression.

As long as Israel continues to deny Palestinian human rights and academic freedom and impose discriminatory policies based on origins and political opinion, students, educators and academic institutions have a moral obligation and an ethical responsibility to ensure their campus is not contributing in any way to denying Palestinians our right to education and life.

We urge the Pitzer College Council to uphold the principled stand taken by an overwhelming majority of its faculty not to be complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights and its blatantly racist and anti-democratic discriminatory policies.

Doing so will send a strong signal to the Israeli government and its deeply complicit universities that principled academic institutions will no longer stand by. They will instead use their power of moral persuasion to hold Israel to account and effect a change in the stagnant status quo of oppression, as was the case during the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

Please, uphold the vote in support of our struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Keep our hope in freedom, justice and equality alive.

Sincerely,

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Against Intervention in Venezuela: The Case of the Caribbean Community

By Maximilian Forte | Zero Anthropology | February 6, 2019

As discussed in the previous article, the membership of the Organization of American States is in fact not at all united around support for foreign intervention and recognition of an alternative second “president” (Juán Guaidó). Standing opposed to the denial of recognition of Maduro’s legitimacy as the elected leader are not just Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and for now Mexico and Uruguay, but also Caribbean states such as Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained from the OAS resolution—which, it turns out, does not mean the same as indifference. The action by the OAS implicitly threatened all governments in the region, which has already significantly damaged the organization’s integrity, as discussed below.

CARICOM Heads of Government

CARICOM

Caribbean states, including those that abstained from voting on the OAS resolution, stood firmly on anti-interventionist principles that respected Venezuela’s sovereignty. Leaders of the member states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) held an emergency meeting to discuss Venezuela on January 24. The heads of government of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Foreign Ministers of Grenada and Suriname, participated in the meeting. Guyana, which has a long standing territorial dispute with Venezuela, nonetheless endorsed the CARICOM position the next day. The resulting statement “reaffirmed” the members’ “principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy”. In addition, they insisted that the crisis should only be “resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy”. Without naming the US and the Trump administration, CARICOM heads explicitly rejected foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs, and threats of violence against the country:

“Reaffirming their commitment to the tenets of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter which calls for Members States to refrain from the threat or the use of force and Article 21 of the Charter of the Organization of American States which refers to territorial inviolability, the Heads of Government emphasized the importance of the Caribbean remaining a Zone of Peace”.

Taking aim again at US policy, CARICOM,

“called on external forces to refrain from doing anything to destabilize the situation and…called on all actors, internal and external, to avoid actions which would escalate an already explosive situation to the detriment of the people of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and which could have far-reaching negative consequences for the wider region”.

Trinidad & Tobago and CARICOM vs. the OAS

Within CARICOM, the case of Trinidad & Tobago deserves special mention. First, Trinidad, mere miles from Venezuela with which it has long historical and demographic ties, is now home to a growing number of Venezuelan refugees. Recent events have triggered fears of an even larger refugee crisis in the making. The media make it clear that many locals neither like nor trust the Venezuelans entering their country, and resent their presence. In addition, Venezuelans protesting in the capital, Port of Spain, against Maduro and demanding that the government of Prime Minister Keith Rowley recognize Guaidó instead, faced a mixed reaction at best. Aside from being denounced by Trinidadian commenters, the protesters drew a sharp rebuke from the leader of one of the parties in parliament, David Abdulah:

“Citizens of Venezuela can appeal to the Government of Venezuela and the parties in Venezuela but Venezuelans here in Trinidad and Tobago cannot determine what the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago ought to be. It is the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago ultimately and the governments of Caricom and the citizens of Caricom who must determine the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago and of Caricom”.

Abdulah also took exception with the protesters claim that Guaidó had popular support, while Maduro was isolated as a dictator. Abdulah said Maduro got significant support at the February 2nd  demonstration in Venezuela, which was much bigger than Guaidó’s rally:

“So it is not as if President Maduro is clinging on to power by himself and so on and the vast majority of the Venezuelans are against him. That is not the case”.

Moreover, Abdulah condemned the opposition:

Dr. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago

“Very regrettably, but not surprising, Guaido has taken the consistent right-wing line of the opposition rejecting any talks, rejecting any mediation and simply wanting for [sic] resolve the thing by force backed, of course, by the United States and some other coun­tries”.

Squaring off against his domestic opposition, Prime Minister Keith Rowley took direct aim at the United National Congress in parliament, which is pro-US and pro-interventionist. Rowley openly called them “traitors” for trying to undermine CARICOM’s mission of mediation.

Luís Almagro, Secretary-General of the OAS

Prime Minister Rowley has also clashed with the leadership of the OAS, precisely on the question of Venezuela, well before this latest crisis erupted. Back in 2017, Rowley called for the dismissal of OAS secretary-general Luís Almagro. Prime Minister Rowley’s point, which was correct, is that the OAS was compromised by taking an interventionist stance towards Venezuela, and delegitimizing its duly elected leader. Rowley further accused the OAS leadership saying that the result was that, “the OAS has now removed itself from any meaningful participation and has deteriorated now into partisan attacks”.

The conflict between CARICOM, and Trinidad & Tobago in particular, and the head of the OAS was reignited with the latest crisis. CARICOM, and Trinidad’s Minister of National Security, expressed shock that Almagro would dare to speak for all OAS members in personally denouncing Maduro. In a January 31 letter to the OAS’ Almagro, CARICOM’s leadership instructed Almagro that the OAS does not speak for CARICOM members on this issue. The letter from CARICOM’s chairman, Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St Kitts and Nevis, stated:

“The Heads of Government consider it imperative that you publicly clarify that you did not speak on behalf of all the member states of the Organisation of American States….We are aware that this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the organisation without authority”.

CARICOM described Almagro’s actions as a “clear departure of from normal practice and cause for great concern”. Almagro has gone as far as advocating a foreign military invasion of Venezuela. Journalists noted that, “the OAS website lists media and press releases for the month of January and there is nothing about the OAS’s support for Guaido”. Trinidad & Tobago joined a CARICOM team to meet in Uruguay on February 7, as part of a mediation effort led by Mexico and Uruguay. Calls for dialogue continue to be flatly rejected by Guaidó, echoing the same line taken by Trump and his team.

Meeting in Montevideo

The meeting of 15 Caribbean nations plus Mexico, Uruguay, and parties in Venezuela, taking place in Montevideo tomorrow, represents the formation of a bloc that can act as a significant counterweight to the so-called “Lima Group” of US dependents in Latin America and neocolonial states such as Canada. Unlike the Lima Group, no foreign media have been banned in advance— the Canadian government blocked Russian and Venezuelan media from covering the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa on February 4, an act of suppression of press freedoms that occasioned no outcry at all in Canada.

The largely right wing “Lima Group” that opposed Maduro itself consisted of a range of shady and extreme characters tarred by their involvement in corruption scandals and with ties to death squads, along with Canada with its liberal authoritarian tradition and its penchant for necolonial violence. Once again, none of the “decolonial” crowd, fashionable as they are in academia, has drawn any of the logical and historical connections between Canada’s internal colonialism and its external neocolonialism, which are united by the same principles and interests, even the very same parties and actors. This failure of intellect is not an accident either, but is a subject best explored at another time.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you listen carefully to the full interview of RT with Nicolás Maduro:

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

12 minutes to understand the Yellow Vests Movement in France

Romain Majou | January 26, 2019

A video to make you understand what’s presently going on in France. 12 minutes to understand who are the Yellow Vests, what they are fighting for and if they really are violent.

Send me a message on my profile: https://www.facebook.com/romain.majou

February 4, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Video | , , | Leave a comment