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Disinformation and False Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Permitting Israel’s Slow Motion Genocide of Palestinians

By Heather Stroud | Dissident Voice | June 16, 2019

The smearing of George Galloway and widely reported disinformation that there was no evidence to support the claim that Viva Palestina delivered aid, raises serious concerns, not just in this case, but far beyond.

It is seriously disturbing how disinformation and lazy ‘cut and paste’ journalism has become common place within the monopoly media of the UK. One wonders where the professional and serious investigative reporting of old has gone.

With regard to the ‘possibly liable’ headlines of several national newspapers: Gaza charity ‘may have delivered no aid’ ‘no evidence of charitable activity’ and so forth…, as a participant of  the Viva Palestina Convoy 2009/10, I can confirm that not only was medical aid delivered to Gaza, there is significant evidence to support this. The medical supplies were, in fact, accurately documented as required and submitted to customs officials in the countries we passed through. So, why didn’t the charities commission, the government and the mainstream journalists find any evidence? Why didn’t they speak to any of the hundreds of witnesses who would likely be willing to testify in a court of law, were they called upon to do so.

My conclusion is that they didn’t look, which brings us to the more serious question: why didn’t they look?

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider why journalists and career politicians might have chosen not to look. It is frightening to consider how we have allowed ourselves to slide into this Orwellian condition of cognitive dissonance where investigative journalists and publishers are punished, criminalised and imprisoned for writing the truth, while the commonplace peddling of disinformation is rewarded.

To quote from George Orwell; “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Julian Assange understands this more than most.

I’m not an investigative journalist; however, as a concerned citizen, my first question would be: Who were the people within the Charities Commission that instigated ‘Viva Palestina’ (a campaigning group), to register as a charity.

I remember that none of the participants of the convoy considered what we were doing as charity. Palestinians are not looking for charity. They want a political solution that offers dignity, freedom and justice. It was this political solution we were attempting to achieve by driving the convoy of politically decorated ambulances overland to Gaza. The symbolism of taking medical supplies was the powerful message that drew people from their homes to wave their support as we drove by.

Further questions we should all ask: “What was the motive in forcing a campaigning group to register as though it were a charity? Were those behind this move politically motivated in any way?”

Given all the false charges of anti-Semitism directed against George Galloway and many other outspoken critics of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, it is credible to surmise that there ‘might’ have been political motives behind, not only forcing ‘Viva Palestina’ to fall under the power of the charities commission, but also the later investigation and false accusation – delivered ten years after the event: ‘of the probability that no aid was delivered’.

Seriously, such throw away meaningless phrases such as.., ‘may not have’ ‘high likely’ … whatever happened to evidence-based accusations?

The convoys of ambulances packed with medical supplies, (Viva Palestina 2009) grew out of an inspirational idea put forward by George Galloway. Both within the UK and indeed globally, individuals were/and continue to be shocked by the brutal attacks on a largely defenceless population living under siege in Gaza. The Israeli ‘Operation Cast Lead’ of 2008/9 left around 1,440 people dead and many more thousand injured. Ten years on, Gaza continues to face a slow genocide so the motivation to place blame on those who speak out about these outrageous war crimes and crimes against humanity, are well entrenched within the establishment and media.

The aims of Viva Palestina were threefold: besides delivering ambulances and medical supplies to Gaza by driving across Europe, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt in convoy, our aim was to raise awareness as to the desperate plight of the Gazan people. The medical supplies will have been used up long ago; however, our intended aim of  raising awareness and demonstrating love and solidarity toward the Palestinians is enduring.

Viva Palestina was not one person. It was an inspirational campaigning umbrella for more than a hundred and ten different groups that comprised around 500 people from an international collective of around 17 different nationalities. The largest contingent participating in the convoy came from UK, followed by Turkey, Malaysia, and Jordanian doctors.

I was one of four who represented the people of York. Besides contributing our own money we fundraised locally and were responsible for our own financial accounting. Although it’s credible to believe that £1M was around the total sum of aid delivered, other than the international groups none of the local UK groups would have individually met the threshold of the £25,000.00 that was the excuse to force charity status on us. Our first purchase was an ambulance for which we paid £6,000.00. Having acquired the ambulance money came in more readily and we were able to purchase medical supplies, a defibrillator, and a second hand dialysis machine. This we handed over personally to doctors from the Red Crescent in Gaza. However spurious claims that we might have handed over aid (aid that we supposedly didn’t have) to ‘the ruling government’ are misleading and disingenuous. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. Just like our government which has a financial responsibility toward the NHS, Hamas finances the main Al Shifa Hospital, along with a responsibility for the health services of the population of Gaza. Had we handed our ambulance and medical supplies over to them, as many did, this would have been absolutely legitimate.

In a report put out by the UK government based on the charity commissions findings, it is stated that trustees of Viva Palestina were found lacking in their assessment of the risks. I should add that all participants were aware that there were risks. It was discussed prior to departure of the convoy and during the journey on several occasions. Given the Egyptian military siege that took place in El Arish against all participants of the convoy, it would have been comforting to think our government thought well enough of us, to have made some diplomatic gesture toward protecting us. The only response I am aware of from them was: “You were advised not to go. You are on your own.” Maybe behind the scenes they said something, but we were certainly not aware of it.

In contrast it was evident that the Turkish Government, the Malaysian Government and others, did take diplomatic steps to offer assistance to their citizens and as a result the military confrontation and siege ended with few casualties. Sadly this was not the case at the Rafa borders where Palestinians gathered in protest of our coming under siege by the Egyptian military. One Egyptian soldier was killed and a Palestinian was shot in the legs. If a reminder were needed, this tragedy reflects the brutality of conflict in this area of the world and what Palestinians in Gaza face on a daily basis.

We have normalised wars waged against civilians as though this were a natural condition of being human. Gaza continues to face a slow genocide, so the motivation for Palestinians during this current ‘Great March of Return’ arrives out of a sense of despair as they witness their country being steadily stolen away. Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel simply added fuel to an already simmering anger. This desperate act of resistance arises in the belief that it is better to die in dignity than to die slowly on one’s knees.

The courage of the Palestinians comes from the belief that their individual death might trigger a global outrage that will finally bring justice and freedom for the children of their community. The realisation of this belief is slow in coming; however, it’s this faith in our common humanity that gives them the courage to transcend fear. It was this same faith that persuaded us to undertake the long journey across Europe and beyond in hopes of stirring a conscious awakening of decent people to this injustice.

In contrast to our good will, disinformation and labels function as a way of de-legitimising genuine resistance to injustice, resistance to the theft of one’s land, the theft of one’s freedom, and resistance to the theft of many lives… resistance to all that is inherently wrong.

Palestinians and their democratically elected government, Hamas, are frequently described as terrorists by Israel, UK and its politically ideological Zionist supporters; however, when Israel bombs Gaza and drops white phosphorous on its civilian population, it is stated that Israel is defending itself.

Labels and calculated disinformation function as a way of diverting attention  from legitimate outrage. People are afraid of the slurs and negative labels that might be attached to them; in the case of supporting Palestinians one is charged with being anti-Semitic. We just have to look at how these attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway and the participants of Viva Palestina, to see how labels, false charges and calculated disinformation have become weaponised.

Labels don’t need truth to stick. Like lies they just have to be said often enough and with enough force to be intimidating and carry the power to turn a contrived falsehood into a popularly held truth. A false label is like the smelly stuff that clings to the bottom of your shoe if you are unfortunate enough to walk on the wrong part of the pavement. Evidently, George Galloway, like Jeremy Corbyn and all those of us on the Viva Palestina Convoy, have trodden in the wrong place by our physical endeavour to demonstrate an ongoing injustice and an unpalatable truth into the reaches of power.

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Second Saudi ship leaves French port without arms cargo

MEMO | May 31, 2019

A Saudi cargo ship has left the southern French port of Fos-sur-Mer without loading its arms cargo destined for Saudi Arabia, blocked from doing so after pressure from rights campaigners, a French rights group said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The incident reported by ACAT, a Christian organisation against torture, is the second time this month that a Saudi vessel has been blocked from loading arms in France as pressure mounts on Paris to stop arms sales to the kingdom.

A Saudi ship left France’s northern coast two weeks ago without a cargo of weapons after dockers threatened to block its arrival in the port of Le Havre. That came weeks after an online investigative site published leaked French military intelligence that showed weapons sold to the kingdom, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, were being used against civilians in Yemen’s war.

ACAT said the Saudi freighter, Bahri Tabuk, returned to sea on Wednesday night, with its holds empty.

“Once again, faced with citizen mobilisation and our legal action, a Saudi freighter had to give up loading French weapons, this time in Fos-sur-Mer,” Nathalie Seff of ACAT-France said in a statement.

Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed that the Saudi-flagged ship, labelled as a vehicle carrier which has transported soybean meal in the past, left Fos and was sailing to Alexandria in Egypt.

French and Saudi governments and the port authorities could not be reached for comment on Thursday evening.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has said that France had a partnership with Saudi Arabia. When the first vessel was blocked from loading in Le Havre, she said the arms were related to an order dating back several years.

ACAT said it had filed an appeal last week with the Paris Administrative Court to block weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia, arguing that the sales contravened a UN treaty because the arms could be used against civilians in the Yemeni conflict, but it said the appeal was rejected.

May 31, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

French rights group moves to block Saudi arms cargo

RT | May 28, 2019

A French humanitarian group is seeking to block a delivery of munitions to a Saudi ship docked at a port in southern France, arguing the weapons will be used to commit war crimes in Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Yemen.

The rights group, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), filed its legal challenge Tuesday, following up on a previous effort which successfully blocked a shipment of howitzer cannons to the Saudi Kingdom.

The cargo ship “is to load French weapons bound for Saudi Arabia, one of the main belligerents of the Yemeni conflict,” ACAT said in a statement Tuesday, adding it was “calling on civil society … to prevent these munitions from leaving” the port of Marseille-Fos.

The shipment is to include ammunition for the French-made Caesar howitzer, a truck-mounted artillery system, according to sources cited by investigative outlet Disclose. Though ACAT managed to block a howitzer shipment earlier this month, Saudi Arabia obtained several Caesar batteries in previous sales.

ACAT argues that the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty, ratified by France in 2014, provides a legal basis for a court order to block the cargo.

Under the treaty, “France undertook not to authorize the transfer of arms when it ‘has knowledge, at the time the authorization is requested that such weapons or property could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity’,” or other violations of humanitarian law, ACAT said, quoting the language of the agreement.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly told lawmakers Tuesday that she had no information on the shipment, but added that France must respect its alliance with the kingdom in any case. Parly has previously stated there was “no proof” that French weapons contributed to rights violations in the Yemen war.

In April, however, French journalists with Disclose published classified military intelligence documents revealing that French weapons likely were involved in strikes on civilians. French authorities have since interrogated the journalists and threatened them with jail time.

Earlier Tuesday Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Saudi Arabia to end its “dirty war” on Yemen, but stopped short of demanding an end to French weapons sales, adding that France was “extremely vigilant” in its arms transfers.

Activists at Italian and Spanish ports have also attempted to interfere in the Saudi war effort, with Italian dock workers in Genoa refusing to load cargo onto a Saudi vessel earlier this month, and a similar, albeit unsuccessful, protest at the Spanish port of Santander.

The UN says Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions dependent on humanitarian aid and tens of thousands killed in the fighting. A coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia began military operations in Yemen in March 2015, seeking to oust rebels from power and reinstate Yemeni President Mansour Hadi. Both the coalition and the rebels have violated the laws of armed conflict, according to rights groups, but the bulk of civilian casualties have been inflicted in the Saudi air war.

May 28, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

What is ‘the Palestinian Cause’?

By Blake Alcott | Palestine Chronicle | May 21, 2019

At a recent Palestine conference in Istanbul, many speakers talked of ‘the Palestinian cause’. Many also spoke of ‘solidarity’ with the Palestinians. What do these words mean?

Although I’ve been active in solidarity with the Palestinian cause for ten years, I had to admit to myself that if asked by a ‘man on the street’ in the West, I could only give a vague or even contradictory answer to the questions of what the cause is, and with what one is being asked to be in solidarity with. We all have a general idea and can point to specific rights violations, or know that Zionism itself is the problem, but a short, precise answer?

In the fight against Apartheid South Africa, internationals like myself could say the cause is ‘one man, one vote’ – a standard human rights-based democracy modeled on constitutions from all over the world. One could point to the Freedom Charter and to the broad anti-Apartheid consensus, after the offer of Bantustans was rejected, as to what internationals are in solidarity with.

In the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S., similarly, there was a clear and unanimous call for equality as citizens. And I suppose that, after most feminists had rejected various offers of partial enfranchisement, men the world over knew exactly what the cause was when they supported Women’s Suffrage.

Palestine is, of course, more complicated, both because it has been divided in addition to being conquered and because the PLO in the late 1980s and early 1990s abandoned the simple goal of national liberation. Consequently, some Palestinians support the two-state solution, some a re-unified democratic state and others a re-unified Islamic state. There is no clarity or straightforward vision.

But can a liberation movement do without a vision that is 1) inspiring and 2) simple to convey?

Which Cause, Solidarity with Which Palestinians?

For some, the cause is a sovereign state, any state, even on 15% of Palestine. This comes however at the price of leaving the diaspora in the diaspora and leaving the Palestinians in Israel to fend for themselves. The cause is: some of the rights of some of the Palestinians.

For others, the cause is getting all of the homeland back, with Right of Return as the non-negotiable key, and replacing present-day Israel and the territories occupied in 1967 with a democracy. This corresponds to fulfilling all the rights of all the Palestinians.

Perhaps this disunity on the basics is unavoidable today. But from 1918 until 1988 there actually was Palestinian unity: freedom from Britain, Zionism, and Israel, no dispossession from the land. Such a goal today would make the Palestinian cause easier to understand for the rest of the world.

It is inevitable and understandable that some Palestinians have fought long and hard enough from inside and outside of prison, have lost enough relatives and friends and will settle for the two-state compromise. This stance is to be respected, even if it is in the form of a final settlement.

It is also logical that some Palestinians balk at the sheer unfairness of the two-state solution, and have also perhaps concluded that the two-state cause has now been tried but has failed. Thus, for ethical as well as practical reasons the cause should be the single independent democratic state insisted on by all Palestine Arab Congresses and then by the PLO for 70 years. Many feel there is nothing more to lose, so why not ‘go for it’.

In any case, if we internationals want to work and argue for a Palestinian cause we must pick and choose. Which cause? Solidarity with which Palestinians? Otherwise, we are left with the dampening message that there is as yet no Palestinian consensus, and we have to revert to focusing not on a goal but on Israel’s specific misdeeds as a settler-colonial, apartheid state.

For us, this is not inspiring and even causes feelings of helplessness. In my case, discussing with the public at Palestinian events and market-place stalls, I can say that it usually led to indeterminate, anti-climactic, qualified generalities then a parting shrug of the shoulders. There was no motivating and simple vision to point to.

BDS and Right of Return

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) offers the closest thing to a vision with its call for non-violent pressure on Israel until three demands are met: return, equality within the 1948-occupied territories, and sovereignty in the 1967-occupied territories. It also calls for ‘self-determination’, but this term is vague in leaving open the question of self-determination where. In most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or in all of Palestine?

We BDS supporters can point to these 3 concrete goals as, added together, ‘the Palestinian cause’ and can claim that it is explicitly supported by many, many Palestinians.

Similarly, we can follow the brave example of the Marches of Return from Gaza, and demand one single thing: that refugees become returnees – to their homes, places of origin, and property – wherever that is all over historic Palestine. This is a clearly conveyable cause with impeccable credentials in both ethics and international law. And it involves about 7 million Palestinians.

But are any relatively simple political solutions, or end ‘causes’, implied by BDS and Right of Return?

Rights vs Solutions

Many Palestinians have recently begun arguing that one should desist from debating political solutions, of debating for or against one state or two states. One often hears the message, ‘One state, two states, five states, no state, I just want my rights.’

The choice, however, I believe, comes down to just two – one democratic state or the permanent partition – even if a bi-national federation is somewhat different from one democratic state and even if some Palestinians contemplate the ‘Jordanian option’ of adding the West Bank once again to Jordan. (Nobody seems to be advocating two states on the borders of General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947, which would make the discussion more interesting.)

Instead, these people argue, one should just argue for Palestinian rights, to whatever solution that leads. Or one should just keep fighting the (negative) fights against Israeli colonialism and ongoing ethnic cleansing and house destruction and apartheid.

In my experience, most of the Palestinians who argue against discussing solutions favor the two-state solution, but even some who focus on BDS, right of return and even one democratic state believe that the time is not ripe for settling the one-state/two-states question. I do not understand why working for rights and working for one solution or the other should be mutually exclusive, but many feel that more work must first be done against the many-headed Israeli state.

But are rights and solutions really separable? I don’t think so. Take for example BDS. The boycott would be called off when the 3 goals are fulfilled, and if they were fulfilled, what would be the result in terms of a political solution?

First, full equality would reign in the 1948-occupied territories. Second, the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be utterly sovereign. Third, if only 4 million of the roughly 7 million exiled Palestinians return, in what is now Israel there would no longer be a Jewish or a Zionist majority – something that results, as well, if only right of return is realized, without equality and without an end to the 1967 occupation.

The result of the achievement of BDS’s goals would literally be Two Democratic States. But would there be any reason not to re-unify Palestine the following morning? If this logic holds up, then BDS actually implies one democratic state.

Put the other way around, it is easy to see that the two-state solution is not compatible with either right of return or equality within Israel, for one of the two states in the two-state solution is apartheid Israel, which could not let the refugees come back or treat its Palestinian citizens equally and still be called Israel.

What to Argue for?

Those of us in international solidarity as well as people in our societies who are thinking about the issue at all, and whom we are trying to convince, naturally ponder solutions. One cannot quit thinking, or play dumb. How can one help but work out the logic of which rights fit with which solutions? Yet it is sometimes said simply to ‘leave solutions to the Palestinians’. Of course, but can we not argue for one or the other, in order to make the options clear?

Some internationals do not enter the solutions debate because we shouldn’t ‘tell the Palestinians what to do’. I find this a strange stance, because none of us are in a position to tell a single Palestinian what to do. We have no power and no Palestinian has to listen to a single word we say. We are not Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn or Cyril Ramaphosa, all of whom might be in a position to co-dictate some solution (and all of whom support the two-state solution, by the way).

After a century of Zionism’s being imposed by outsiders – and debating the Question of Palestine without any Palestinians in the room – many Palestinians understandably object to any international acting as if they were an actual stakeholder. But does this mean not arguing for a political vision?

The dilemma of the international picking amongst Palestinian causes and choosing which Palestinians to support might be to simply admit it, and say that we have picked and chosen and that we support those Palestinians who support one or the other solution. Many Palestinians have written in detail for one democratic state, and I, for instance, support them, not the Palestinian Authority.

What we should not do is claim that supporting one or the other solution is supporting ‘the Palestinians’. We can’t claim this simply because there is no unity. In fact, while Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are often polled as to their views on the best political solution, and the Palestinians in Israel as well, all Palestinians are never polled. Those in the diaspora are not even registered in a database. They are never asked, so we can only speculate on what a majority of Palestinians want.

It could be that hesitancy in coming out for one of the solutions can be explained by certain awkward consequences. Those for two states must answer the charge that they are supporting a Zionist solution, since Israel – yes, the Israel we know – would still exist, exist more safely and permanently than ever. The truncated Palestinian state, that is, has a price, and that price is both states ‘secure within their borders’.

Those, on the other hand, who support one democratic state must deal with the consequence that there would be no more Israel, no more Jewish state in Palestine. This entails navigating the minefield that has been laid around the concept of ‘destroying’ the ‘only Jewish state in the world’, of de-legitimizing Israel and denying its ‘right to exist’.

This is a huge challenge, but there are ways to defuse it: In most one-state visions the Jewish Israelis could stay as citizens. Violence is not contemplated. Most importantly during the witch-hunt over ‘anti-Semitism’, one can openly grant that Yes, a Jewish state somewhere might be justified, but not in Palestine – because it is against the will of the indigenous people and because it is at the cost of the Palestinians who had nothing to do with the European ‘Jewish problem’ in the first place. But whether Jewish, Christian or Hindu, it is any ethnocracy imposed from outside which is the problem.

A Vision

I can say from experience which internationals and which Jewish Israeli Jews are actively behind the two-state solution. They are the ones who want to save Israel’s skin. They argue pragmatically, that Zionism must give up ‘Judea and Samaria’ in order to salvage the state on some four-fifths of Palestine. Israel should stay, for historical reasons having mainly to do with European guilt. It should become nicer, but it is ‘right’ that it exists in Palestine. (Those in ‘solidarity’ supporting two states cannot, however, call themselves ‘anti-Zionist’.)

I also know from experience that next to no internationals are actually enthused about a two-state solution. They get enthused about BDS and ODS because their goals are clear and they don’t compromise even before the other side has come to the table.

The one-democratic-state vision, on the other hand, has the power to enthuse, because it contains all the rights of all the Palestinians and because it is simple and explicable. It is like other democracies on all continents. One can obviously put more energy and conviction into ‘justice for all’ than in ‘justice for some, tough luck for the rest’.

Palestinians and Internationals

I am assured by almost all Palestinians that the national liberation struggle needs outside support. Who can doubt that it would help if more and more academics, journalists, and governments would come to feel the need to pressure their governments to pressure Israel so that Palestinian rights can be fulfilled – or at least abandon their unwavering Zionism?

Internationals cannot be expected to suspend their own judgment as to what justice would entail, or to use their logic to see how the pieces of Palestinian rights fit into what solutions. We are in fact not able to simply follow and support the wishes of ‘the Palestinians’ because there is as of now no unity. I’ve seen a move towards one democratic state amongst the rank-and-file in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the U.K., for instance, even if that organization still holds back. It is something we can get behind with real feeling.

I also know many Palestinians who miss having a clear vision, shared at least by a large minority of Palestinians. A vision not only clear but inspiring. The idea of simple re-unification, democracy and right of return seems to fit this bill. I believe it would do the ‘cause’ good if advocating for this solution were accepted and its vision of combining anti-colonialism, equal rights and right of return were to crystallize into a Call like that of BDS in 2005, led by Palestinians.

– Blake Alcott is an ecological economist and the director of One Democratic State in Palestine (England) Limited. The author welcomes any information on ODS or bi-nationalism activity sent to blakeley@bluewin.ch.

May 21, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

‘We won’t be complicit’: Italian dock workers refuse to load Saudi arms ship over Yemen war

RT | May 20, 2019

Italian unions have refused to load cargo onto a Saudi ship carrying weapons, in protest against Riyadh’s war on Yemen. The dock workers have gone on strike, refusing to work until the ship leaves port in Genoa.

While the Saudi Arabian ship, the Bahri-Yanbu, was expected to leave for Jeddah by the end end of the day, it seems the delivery might end up being rather late. After unsuccessful attempts to have the ship barred from docking in Italy altogether, it was greeted by banners and a protests as it arrived in port Monday.

Workers were joined by human rights campaigners who oppose stocking the ship over fears the supplies will be used against the civilian population in Yemen. The demonstrators held signs opposing the war and arms trafficking.

“We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen,” union leaders said in a statement. Port officials have acknowledged that the generators that protesters fear may be used for military purposes have been blocked from being brought on board, but say some non-critical goods will still be loaded. Union leaders are scheduled to meet with the port’s prefects to discuss the impasse.

The ship was loaded with weapons in Belgium, but successfully blocked from picking up additional arms at a French port as a result of a similar protest.

The UN describes the four-year-long Saudi-led war as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world today, with the death toll expected to top 230,000 by the end of the year. Italy’s 5-Star movement, a part of the government’s ruling populist-leaning coalition, has fought to end the government’s arms deals with the Saudi kingdom for years.

May 20, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | | 1 Comment

Who Won This Year’s Eurovision: Israel or Palestine?

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | May 19, 2019

Like the Olympics, the Eurovision Song Contest has attempted to create national harmony through head-to-head competition on the basis of national demarcations. While singing or running around a track are vastly preferable expressions of nationalism than killing one another, it is nationalistic rivalry nevertheless and this automatically means that such an event is political, in spite of droning claims to the contrary.

But while recent years have seen the increasingly dated Song Contest become ever more controversial, this year’s events in Tel Aviv represented a watershed moment in public opinion. Multiple artists, activists, philosophers, politicians and even erstwhile apolitical people tried to persuade the Eurovision organisers to relocate the event to a more politically neutral place. No matter what one’s view on Palestine, Israel is more politically polarising than Switzerland and it would be difficult to find anyone who could honestly disagree. In this sense, the real Eurovision Political Contest was one between Israel and Palestine.

The fact that the contest went ahead does represent an initial victory for Israel against the Palestinian civil society activists who encouraged a relocation to a politically neutral place. While the official viewing figures are not yet in for this year’s event, these numbers will eventually offer insight into which side has ultimately won the battle for public opinion. If in fact the viewing figures are significantly down vis-a-vis 2018, this could indicate that the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) call for a television boycott may have had some success.

But even before the numbers are out, several things are apparent. Public perceptions of Palestine have reached a critical turning point in the western world. It is no longer fashionable to ignore the cause of Palestine. Whilst even ten years ago, many apolitical people in the west tended to automatically associate Palestine with “terrorism” while associating Israel with the opposite, at nearly 20 years since the turn of the century, today it is Palestine that is considered “fashionably victimised” while Israel is considered cold, unjust and reactionary.

It goes without saying that it is crude and vulgar to reduce the decades long suffering of Palestine to a “fashion statement”. As such, true supporters of the Palestinian people would never do so. However, one must be honest enough to realise that all political causes in an increasingly fickle western public square are eventually diluted to fashion statements once they reach a critical mass.

True believers in the Palestinian cause should therefore not be put off by the fact that while support for Palestine isn’t growing because thousands of otherwise apolitical westerners have discovered the speeches of George Habash, it is growing nevertheless – this necessary critical mass in public opinion has just about been reached.

In the vulgar world of politics or geopolitics, any form of positive attention is good for one’s cause and the fact of the matter is that from the debating halls of Washington and Westminster, to pop music stages throughout the western world, to social media, art galleries and “hip and cool” public gatherings, it is becoming close to impossible to hold political views that are socially fashionable whilst simultaneously favouring Israel over Palestine. In other words if one wants to be “woke” one has to be woke to Palestine.

This means that while the old paradigm for public figures involved a choice between supporting Israel and supporting Palestine, today’s question for public figures is one of favouring Palestine without reservation (Roger Waters, for example) versus showing solidarity with Palestine while calling for Israel to have its proverbial “F. W. de Klerk moment” whereby the old reactionary regime grudgingly embraces inclusivity.

Some long time Palestine supporters might find this latter view to be naive. That being said, the fact that even the less overtly pro-Palestinian option for western public figures who wish to remain fashionable is still at least somewhat pro-Palestine and in some cases is rhetorically very pro-Palestine, is indicative of the fact that the nature of the Palestine argument for westerners has changed. Palestine is no longer a symbol of “terror” in the eyes of the middle of the road westerner. Palestine is now symbolic of injustice and this is even the case among those whose demographic positions within western societies would have in the past indicated unequivocal acceptance if not support for the Israeli status quo. Beyond this, as western politics itself becomes more polarised between the haves and have-nots, it is becoming all the more natural for westerners to sympathise with those abroad who have not even their own land.

This was reflected in two ways during last night’s Eurovision Final. First of all, those actively boycotting the event had a strong presence on social media, one so strong that hardline Israel supporters were generally on the defensive. This represents a major shift from previous decades when Palestinian supporters had to be on the defence against allegations of “apologising for terrorism”. Now, among trendy westerners it is supporters of Israel who are on the defensive – having to justify their whitewashing of oppression against a people increasingly seen as the victims of supreme injustice.

Secondly, even some of those who defied the proverbial BDS picket line and performed in Tel Aviv felt sufficiently guilty about having done so. Such people ended up showing their support for Palestine while the international cameras were rolling. Most notably, the Icelandic performers held up large banners reading “PALESTINE”, complete with Palestinian flags right in front of the cameras. Then, in a reportedly unauthorised move, Madonna whose performance was the most controversial of the evening had some of her backup dancers wear both Israeli and Palestinian flags. Whilst Madonna’s move will be viewed as a cop-out by many pro-Palestine activists (rightly so from an ethical point of view), the fact that she felt the need to include Palestinian imagery at all is symptomatic of an opportunist trying to have it both ways.

Yet even this opportunistic act is indicative of the fact that supporting Palestine now presents as many opportunities for public figures as it does challenges. Compared to recent years, this is one major step in the right direction as at the turn of the 21st century, trying to do anything positive for Palestine earned one undiluted excoriation from mainstream western society. This is no longer the case.

Thus, the final verdict is this: unlike mid-1980s South Africa, it is still possible for western pop starts to perform in Israel without their careers being ruined by verdicts passed in the court of public opinion. But on the other side of the coin, it is now possible and at times even practically advisable for such pop stars to support Palestine and this of course means supporting BDS.

In the battle of public opinion, Israel is still able to mobilise its troops, but through persistence and by building a genuinely big tent of support, Palestine is now forcing many in the west to side with the victims rather than the oppressors. In this sense, the true winner of last night’s Eurovision Song Contest were the silenced voices of Palestinians whose echos are reverberating ever louder among otherwise aloof people who are becoming slowly acquainted with their conscience.

May 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

National Lawyers Guild International Statement On The Venezuelan Embassy And U.S. Sanctions

National Lawyers Guild International Committee | May 4, 2019

The National Lawyers Guild International Committee unequivocally condemns the threats posed by the government of the United States and Washington D.C. Police Department to the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We also condemn the unilateral financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. government intended to force “regime change” in Venezuela by limiting people’s access to basic goods necessary for survival.

As a legal organization committed to the promotion and defense of international law and human rights, the NLG demands that federal and local law enforcement abide by all applicable legal standards governing diplomatic protections, sovereignty and freedom of assembly. This includes the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which requires the U.S. to recognize the inviolability of embassies and to “take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion.” The Vienna Convention was ratified by the United States in 1972 and thus is a part of federal law.

The legitimacy of the Maduro presidency should be left to the Venezuelan people to decide via their own electoral processes, and it is entirely unjustified for members of the United States government to openly call for or support a military coup, including Senator Marco Rubio, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Ambassador Elliott Abrams. Self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó has no legitimate claim under the Bolivarian Constitution (Sections 233 and 234).

Since 2006, the NLG has sent multiple delegations to observe local and national Venezuelan elections. We have observed the process noted by the Carter Center as one of the best electoral processes in the world, with its paper receipts, open source software and the public audit to compare paper and digital votes at close of polls. Even the opposition has admitted the Venezuelan election system is “fraud-proof.”

Both the proposed takeover of the Venezuelan Embassy by the Guaidó agents and the criminal unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the U.S. to bring about regime change by crippling the Venezuelan economy and thwarting the basic needs of the Venezuelan people constitute a clear violation of international law.

The National Lawyers Guild condemns the on-going attempted coup d’etat organized by the United States and evocation of the ignominious Monroe Doctrine in clear violation of the basic sovereignty provisions of the UN and OAS Charters.

May 12, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Massive demonstration in support of Palestine in London on the 71st anniversary of Nakba

Palestine Information Center – May 12, 2019

LONDON – Thousands of people gathered on Saturday for a demonstration in London, called for by the Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB) and allied organizations, especially Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), to mark the seventy first anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), which coincides this year with talk about a new deal that will liquidate the Palestinian issue.

The rally was attended by many important personalities, something which the president of the Manchester branch of PFB, Baha’ Bader, considered to be a reflection of the acceptance of the Palestinian narrative despite the omnipresence of Zionist narrative.

For his part the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zumullut, stressed the utter rejection of the Palestinian people and their leadership of all that has been leaked about the suspicious deal.

In the meantime, the Chairman of PFB, Hafiz Al-Karmi, renewed a call for the British Government to apologize for the historical mistake of what is known as the Balfour Declaration and work for protecting the Palestinians.

The Palestinian student, who came to Britain recently to study, Ahed Al-Tamimi, was present at the rally to stress that she is going to continue her struggle in defense of Palestinian rights.

Labor MP, Richard Burgon, saw in the masses that attended the rally a message of support for the Labor Party’s plans to recognize the State of Palestine and stressed the Palestinians’ right to live in peace.

The spokesman for the PFB, Adnan Humaidan, accused the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, of being biased in favor of the Israeli occupation and of closing her ears to the calls of the demonstrators to stop arming and supporting the occupation while turning a blind eye to its crimes such as the killing of the baby Saba Abu Arrar and thousands of Palestinian children before her.

The demonstrators carried placards against the American President, Donald Trump, and his suspicious plans against the Palestinians and called for support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The speech of the British Palestinian youth, Leanne Mohamed, was received with a lot of applause. She participates in and speaks at most demonstrations that support Palestinian rights. She was disqualified from participating in the finals of Jack Petchey Speak-out challenge because of her insistence to talk about Palestine.

While another British Palestinian youth, Haneen Khalil, gave a speech in the name of OLIVE for Palestinian Youth. She stressed her rejection to negotiations with Israel before it agrees to the right of return of all Palestinian refugees.

In a message that was read on behalf of the Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at the demonstration he said: “We cannot stand by or stay silent at the continuing denial of the rights and justice of the Palestinian people. The labor party is united in condemning the human rights abuses taking place in Gaza and the Israeli forces shooting unarmed Palestinian demonstrators for simply demanding their rights under international law.”

May 12, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Resistance Can Intensify Deterrence in Face of Zionist Enemy: Hezbollah

Deputy Chief of Hezbollah Executive Council Sheikh Ali Daamoush
Al-Manar | May 10, 2019

Deputy Chief of Hezbollah Executive Council Sheikh Ali Daamoush stressed that the silence of some Arab regimes about the Israeli aggression on Gaza was worse than the aggression itself, adding that they showed to be on the enemy’s side, just as the US and the West.

In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Daamoush pointed out that the Zionist enemy failed to achieve the aggression’s aims, adding that the Palestinian resistance proved it had improved its military capabilities.

The Palestinian resistance has a chance to intensify its deterrence capability in face of the Zionist enemy, his eminence stressed.

In a different context, Sheikh Daamoush noted that the US sanctions on Iran expose Washington’s aggressiveness against the regional states, adding that the Islamic Republic of Iran may never bow to such pressures.

May 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking the Grip of Militarism: The Story of Vieques

By Lawrence Wittner | CounterPunch | May 2, 2019

Vieques is a small Puerto Rican island with some 9,000 inhabitants. Fringed by palm trees and lovely beaches, it attracts substantial numbers of tourists. But, for about six decades, Vieques served as a bombing range, military training site, and storage depot for the U.S. Navy, until its outraged residents, driven to distraction, rescued their homeland from the grip of militarism.

Like the main island of Puerto Rico, Vieques—located eight miles to the east―was ruled for centuries by Spain, until the Spanish-American War of 1898 turned Puerto Rico into an informal colony (a “nonsovereign territory”) of the United States. In 1917, Puerto Ricans (including the Viequenses) became U.S. citizens, although they continue to lack the right to representation in the U.S. Congress and to vote for the U.S. president.

During World War II, the U.S. government, anxious about the security of the Caribbean region and the Panama Canal, expropriated large portions of land in eastern Puerto Rico and on Vieques to build a mammoth U.S. naval base. As a result, thousands of Viequenses were evicted from their homes and deposited in razed sugar cane fields that the navy declared “resettlement tracts.”

The U.S. Navy takeover of Vieques accelerated in 1947, when it designated the base as a naval training installation and storage depot and began utilizing the island for firing practice and amphibious landings by tens of thousands of troops. Expanding its expropriation to three-quarters of Vieques, the navy used the western section for its ammunition storage and the eastern section for its bombing and war games, while sandwiching the native population into the small strip of land separating them.

Over the ensuing decades, the navy bombed Vieques from the air, land, and sea and conducted military training exercises averaging 180 days per year. It also used the island for tests of biological weapons.

Naturally, for the Viequenses, this military domination created a nightmarish existence. “When the wind came from the east, it brought smoke and piles of dust from their bombing ranges,” one resident recalled. “They’d bomb every day, from 5 am until 6 pm. It felt like a war zone. You’d hear . . . eight or nine bombs, and your house would shudder. Everything on your walls . . . would fall on the floor and break,” and “your cement house would start cracking.” In addition, with the release of toxic chemicals into the soil, water, and air, the population began to suffer from dramatically higher rates of illnesses.

Eventually, the U.S. Navy determined the fate of the entire island, including the nautical routes, flight paths, aquifers, and zoning laws in the remaining civilian territory, where the residents lived under constant threat of eviction. In 1961, the navy actually drafted a secret plan to remove the entire civilian population from Vieques, with even the dead slated to be dug up from their graves. But U.S. President John F. Kennedy blocked the plan from implementation.

Long-simmering tensions between the Viequenses and the navy boiled over from 1978 to 1983. In the midst of heightened U.S. naval bombing and stepped up military maneuvers, a vigorous local resistance movement emerged, led by the island’s fishermen. Activists engaged in picketing, demonstrations, and civil disobedience―most dramatically, by placing themselves directly in the line of missile fire, thereby disrupting military exercises.

But this first wave of popular protest, involving thousands of Viequenses and their supporters throughout Puerto Rico and the United States, failed to dislodge the navy from the island. In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S. military clung tenaciously to its operations on Vieques. Also, the prominence in the resistance campaign of Puerto Rican nationalists limited the movement’s appeal.

In the 1990s, however, a more broadly-based resistance movement took shape. Begun in 1993 by the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, it accelerated in opposition to navy plans for the installation of an intrusive radar system and took off after April 19, 1999, when a U.S. navy pilot accidentally dropped two 500-pound bombs on an allegedly safe area, killing a civilian.

Rallying behind the demand of Peace for Vieques, this massive social upheaval drew heavily upon the Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as upon the labor movement, celebrities, women, and university students. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans participated, with some 1,500 arrested for occupying the bombing range or for other acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. When religious leaders called for a March for Peace in Vieques, some 150,000 protesters flooded the streets of San Juan in what was reportedly the largest demonstration in Puerto Rico’s history.

Facing this firestorm of protest, the U.S. government finally capitulated. In 2003, the U.S. Navy not only halted the bombing, but shut down its naval base and withdrew from Vieques.

Despite this enormous victory for a people’s movement, Vieques continues to face severe challenges today. These include unexploded ordnance and massive pollution from heavy metals and toxic chemicals that were released through the dropping of an estimated trillion tons of munitions on the tiny island. As a result, Vieques is now a major Superfund Site, with cancer and other disease rates substantially higher than in the rest of Puerto Rico. Also, with its traditional economy destroyed, the island suffers from widespread poverty.

Nevertheless, the islanders, no longer hindered by military overlords, are grappling with these issues through imaginative reconstruction and development projects, including ecotourism. Robert Rabin, who served three jail terms for his protest activities, now directs the Count Mirasol Fort―a facility that once served as a prison for unruly slaves and striking sugar cane workers, but now provides rooms for the Vieques Museum, community meetings and celebrations, and Radio Vieques.

Of course, the successful struggle to liberate the island from the burdens of militarism also provides a source of hope for people around the world. This includes the people in the rest of the United States, who continue to pay a heavy economic and human price for their government’s extensive war preparations and wars.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press.)

May 2, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Zarif: US Unilateralism Quickly Replacing Rule of Law with Rule of Jungle

Al-Manar | May 1, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif called on Wednesday for a collective effort to deal with the alarming unilateralism of the current US administration, which is “quickly replacing the rule of law with the rule of the jungle.”

In his address to Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Doha, the top Iranian diplomat said that the “imposition of the will of a single power over all other nations is an existential threat” for everyone.

“Unless we align our capabilities to secure multilateralism, a rising and aggressive unilateralist wave can cover the entire world, quickly replacing the rule of law with the rule of the jungle,” Zarif said, addressing the 16th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Doha, Qatar.

“Let me assure you that in the relentless pursuit of dialogue and multilateralism, Iran will always be a steadfast partner,” the Iranian foreign minister reiterated.

“The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the North-South and East-West transit corridors—along with a well-developed transportation infrastructure—plays a crucial role in connecting members of our community to other regions and contributing to the “Pillar of Connectivity” of our forum.”

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) is an inter-governmental organization created in Thailand on June 18, 2002 to promote Asian cooperation at a continental level.

The ACD was founded by 18 members. Since March 2016, the organization consists of 34 states.

May 1, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | | 1 Comment

Israeli NGO Demands Israel Revoke BDS Founder’s Residency

teleSUR | April 28, 2019

The Israeli human rights group, Betzalmo, has called on Israel’s Attorney General and Minister of Interior to cancel BDS-founder Omar Al-Barghouti’s residency status, Arutz Sheva reported Sunday.

According to a letter that was dated for April 24, 2019, the Israeli NGO argued how it was possible that Barghouthi could be denied entry into the United States, but not in Israel, which is the country he is calling on the world to boycott.

“A recent law authorizes the Minister of the Interior, with the approval of the Attorney General, to revoke residency for anyone who harms state security or violates allegiance to the state, or endangers public peace,” Betzalmo stated. “Undoubtedly Barghouti’s leadership of the boycott movement against all citizens of the State of Israel severely harms the State of Israel and is a blatant breach of allegiance, as well as a threat to Israel’s security and defense by pushing for an arms embargo against Israel.”

The Israeli NGO said “in addition, the BDS movement collaborates with terrorist organizations, so there is undoubtedly an indirect link between Mr. Barghouti and terrorist organizations.”

Betzalmo CEO Shai Glick also released a statement in which he corroborated the claims in the letter that was dated for April 24.

“The State of Israel is a democratic and liberal state, but it must, in the name of democracy and liberalism, defend itself and its citizens. A determined struggle against the boycott constitutes true defense of the citizens of the State of Israel.” Glick said. “We cannot demand from our allies in the world to prevent the entry of a boycott activist and to prevent conferences of boycott organizations, while allowing those leading BDS activists residency in Israel, giving them State benefits and a platform. We are certain that the Interior Minister and the Attorney General will act with determination and immediately revoke Mr. Barghouti’s residency so he will be able to disseminate his toxic teaching only outside Israel.”

Barghouti was previously denied entry in to the United States, despite having the necessary documentation to enter the country.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is a global campaign that has called for the economic boycott of Israel until it meets its “obligations under international law.”

April 28, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment